Super Earth : A planet like ours, that may host alien life

08 December, 2017, 01:49 | Author: Andrea Terry
  • HARPS Instrument

As for the neighbouring planet K2-18c, the researchers concluded that it was quite close to the sun and therefore uninhabitable due to high temperatures, but like the K2-18b it is also a Super-Earth.

But that's not the only thing researchers found.

The two new planets, K2-18b and K2-18c, are very similar orbit around the same star, the red dwarf K2-18. The star forms part of the constellation Leo.

It was while looking through the data of K2-18b that Cloutier noticed something unusual. Since K2-18b is likely rocky, this means the planet could have liquid water on its surface, which is one of many conditions for supporting life.

In the search for extraterrestrial life, scientists conducted new research which suggests that the exoplanet K2-18b could have a Super-Earth neighbor.


They found that the planet is probably mostly rocky with a gaseous atmosphere - like Earth, only more significant, however, it may be a predominantly water planet with a thick layer of ice, so further investigation is needed. The team found the planet resembled the characteristic of a common planet.

"If you can get the mass and radius, you can measure the bulk density of the planet and that can tell you what the bulk of the planet is made of", said Ryan Cloutier, a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto, Canada, and who was the lead author of the research, in a statement published on Tuesday. HARPS allows for measurements of radial velocities of stars, which can be affected by the presence of nearby planets, to be taken with the highest accuracy now available. While combing through their data, researchers discovered that K2-18b was situated right next to yet another super-earth, a newly discovered exoplanet named K2-18b that scientists believe is also roughly the same mass as Earth.

Both planets are around 111 light years from Earth so while they're not exactly within a vacationing distance they are still extremely close when thinking about the size of our galaxy. K2-18b offers a unique chance for research when NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will launch in 2019. But it is by studying its mass recently that an worldwide team of scientists has learned that this planet was not only potentially habitable, but that it had also a neighbour. The second signal happened every nine days.

Surface liquid water is an important element required for hosting any form of life.

Cloutier collaborated with an worldwide team of researchers, including his supervisor U of T Scarborough Associate Professor Kristen Menou, and from the Observatoire Astronomique de l'Université de Genève, the Institute for research on exoplanets (iREx), Université de Grenoble and Universidade do Porto.

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