Scientists Discover Possible “Ocean” on Exoplanet K2-18 b
New Evidence Supports Existence of Water on Distant Planet
In a groundbreaking discovery, scientists at NASA have revealed the potential existence of an “ocean” on a distant exoplanet named K2-18 b. Situated 120 million light years away in the constellation Leo, this giant planet, measuring 8.6 times the size of Earth, has long intrigued researchers. Previous studies with the Hubble and Kepler telescopes yielded limited information, but recent data from the James Webb Space Telescope has propelled our understanding forward.
A “supersolar planet,” K2-18 b orbits the cool dwarf star K2-18 and falls within NASA’s definition of a “habitable zone” – an area around a star that may support water-containing planets. While the planet’s internal structure likely includes a hefty layer of high-pressure ice resembling Neptune, its atmosphere is expected to be hydrogen-rich and its surface may be covered by a subatmospheric ocean.
Chemical analysis of the exoplanet’s atmosphere by the James Webb Space Telescope unveiled an abundance of methane and carbon dioxide, while a lack of ammonia further supports the theory of a hydrogen-rich subatmospheric ocean. Astronomers even suggested the possibility of this planet being a “Hycean star,” with an atmosphere full of hydrogen and a water-filled surface.
Intriguingly, NASA hinted at an even more astonishing finding – the potential discovery of a molecule called “Dimethyl sulfide” (DMS) on K2-18 b. On Earth, this molecule is primarily produced by living organisms, particularly phytoplankton in marine environments. Although this finding needs further investigation and confirmation, it adds another layer of excitement to the scientific community’s quest for extraterrestrial life.
Nikku Madusudhan, an astronomer from the University of Cambridge and one of the researchers involved in this discovery, emphasized the need for thorough study and confirmed that future observations by the James Webb Space Telescope would provide more definitive answers. Madusudhan stated, “Our findings highlight the importance of considering a wide range of habitable environments when searching for life on other planets… traditionally, the search for life on exoplanets has focused mainly on smaller rocky planets. But Hytian worlds, which are often larger, are more conducive to observing their atmospheres.”
This landmark discovery not only expands our understanding of the universe but also underscores the vital role played by the James Webb Space Telescope. This advanced instrument’s extended wavelength range and unprecedented sensitivity provide an unparalleled opportunity to detect spectral features in just two shots, making it considerably more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble telescope.
It’s important to note that this is not the first time that signs of water have been found on a distant planet. Water vapor was previously detected on the minor exoplanet HAT-P-11b in the Cygnus constellation, also positioned 120 light years away. However, scientists remain excited about the prospects of K2-18 b, although cautioning that its extreme temperatures may render its oceans inhospitable for life.
As researchers continue to explore the vastness of space, the discovery of potential oceans on exoplanets like K2-18 b ignites hope for finding other habitable environments in the universe. The importance of considering a wide range of possibilities and conducting thorough investigations cannot be overstated. Without a doubt, the James Webb Space Telescope will play a pivotal role in unraveling the mysteries of distant worlds and potentially confirming the existence of extraterrestrial life.
Scientists have found evidence that suggests there may be an “ocean” on the exoplanet K2-18 b, which is 120 million light years from Earth.
Scientists at the space agency NASA have announced that they have found evidence that it is possible that there could be an “ocean” on the exoplanet called “K2-18 b,” which is millions of light years away.
K2-18 b is a giant planet 8.6 times the size of Earth in the constellation Leo. Which is 120 million light years away from Earth This star has been studied in the past with Hubble and Kepler. But without getting enough details. And recent data from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has advanced the study.
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The exoplanet orbits the cool dwarf star K2-18 in what NASA calls a “supersolar planet.” The “habitable zone” is the area around a star that may contain planets that hold water.
NASA says its interior likely contains a large layer of high-pressure ice. similar to Neptune But it likely has a thinner atmosphere full of hydrogen and a surface ocean.
Surveying the chemical composition of K2-18 b’s atmosphere, James Webb found “abundance of methane and carbon dioxide.” and lack of ammonia Support the hypothesis that there may be a hydrogen-rich subatmospheric ocean in K2-18 b.”
Astronomers said that This is an exoplanet It has the potential to be a star with an atmosphere full of hydrogen and a surface covered by water or an ocean. Also known as the Hycean star (Hycean; Hydrogen + Ocean)
NASA also suggested an even more dramatic possibility. That is the discovery of a molecule called “Dimethyl sulfide” (Dimetyl Sulfide; DMS) which is on earth “It can only be produced by living things.”
NASA states that “the majority of Earth’s atmospheric DMS is emitted by phytoplankton in the marine environment.”
However, Nikku Madusudhan, an astronomer from the University of Cambridge, one of the researchers who discovered this evidence said that the existence of DMS needs to be studied and confirmed further.
“Detailed survey by James Webb to come. It should be possible to confirm whether there is a significant level of DMS in the atmosphere of K2-18 b,” Madusuthan said.
This is not the first time NASA has found signs of water on another planet. Water vapor was previously discovered on the minor exoplanet HAT-P-11b, which is about the size of Neptune in the constellation Cygnus. which is also 120 light years away.
But scientists are still excited about this discovery. Although they emphasize that this does not mean that planets will always be able to support life, as K2-18 b has proven to contain water even after this. But it is also possible that the planet’s oceans may be too hot to live in.
Madusudhan said “Our findings highlight the importance of considering a wide range of habitable environments when searching for life on other planets…traditionally, the search for life on exoplanets has focused mainly on smaller rocky planets. But Hytian worlds, which are often larger, are more conducive to observing their atmospheres. “
Madusudhan credits the discovery to James Webb, “This discovery was only possible because of James Webb’s extended wavelength range and unprecedented sensitivity, which makes it possible to efficiently detect spectral features in just two shots .”
He added, “In comparison, one James Webb observation is as accurate as eight Hubble observations.”
Compiled from NASA / The Guardian
Photo by NASA
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