The exoplanet K2-18b, which is 124 light-years from Earth, was discovered in 2015 in the constellation Leo in the orbit of the red dwarf star K2-18. After analyzing the atmosphere of the discovered object, the scientists found traces of the presence of a large amount of water vapor on the planet, according to the portal newatlas.com. If we consider that water is the basis of life, what are the chances for humanity to finally find these very long-awaited brothers in mind?
Can life arise on earth?
Planet K2-18b is a pretty interesting object to study. The exoplanet orbits the habitable zone of its star and is approximately 2.6 times wider and 8.6 times larger than our home planet. Similar sizes place the discovered object between Earth and Neptune and classify the planet as super earth. But can life arise in a place that is different from the blue planet?
Despite the fact that there are no planets with the properties of super-earths in the solar system, scientists give quite optimistic predictions about the possible climatic conditions on K2-18b. Apparently the planet that was discovered in relative cosmic proximity to Earth has a thin, hospitable atmosphere and large water reserves that are necessary for the survival of all living organisms known to us.
See also: Earth-type exoplanet discovered in the Goldilocks Zone
To find out how the theory described above corresponds to reality, Cambridge University researchers analyzed data on the composition of the exoplanet's atmosphere. During the simulation it was found that the outer shell of K2-18b is rich in hydrogen and contains a large amount of water vapor. It was also found that methane and ammonia are also present in the planet's atmosphere, but in much smaller amounts than previously thought.
Although most of the super earths discovered so far are mini-Neptune gases with no solid surface, the properties of the new exoplanet show that this is a special exception to this rule. Hydrogen indicators, which are important for the development of life, indicate that its proportion of components does not exceed 6 percent of the total mass of the planet. Of course, this can be good news for local organic matter if it does.
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Due to the fact that the equipment that is currently available to Erdlingen does not allow detailed observation of objects that are extremely far from Earth, the only technique with which we can even imagine the exoplanets found is the so-called transit method , The essence of technology lies in the fact that a planet that goes past its luminosity darkens the glow of the host star a little, thereby giving off its presence in orbit. As you can imagine, the application of this method can hardly provide any information about the properties of the discovered world. But even in this case, scientists were able to find a way out: by examining the spectrum of the upper atmosphere of the exoplanet during transit, we can find the chemical elements that are present in the air shell of an object that are many tens, hundreds and even thousands of Light years away from us. The application of this technique made it possible to find out the approximate composition of the next “earth double”. Therefore, most of the scenarios developed during the study show the planet K2-18b as a completely water-rich world with fairly pleasant indicators of air pressure and temperature.
Matthew Nixon, one of the study's authors, argues that the discovery of a super-earth with similar properties can be of great help in finding potentially inhabited objects. So if the super earths were not normally considered to be places where life can arise and develop, then the world K2-18b can refute this rule. If the results of further studies prove the correctness of such a bold theory, the stony super-earths widespread in the universe could become one of the most preferred candidates for habitability, and the planet discovered in the constellation of Leo could become one of the objects by Earth's astronomers with great attention.