"Super Earth" - Planet found with water in another solar system

Posted at 5:55 AM, Sep 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-12 07:55:02-04

In a tantalizing first, scientists have discovered water at a planet outside our solar system that has temperatures suitable for life.

Two research groups announced this week that they've found water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet 110 light-years away in the constellation Leo.

This so-called Super Earth is just the right distance from its star to conceivably harbor life.

It's the only exoplanet known so far to have both water and temperatures needed for life, the University College London team reported in the journal Nature Astronomy on Wednesday.

But co-author Giovanna Tinetti stressed, "While this planet is ticking all the boxes, it doesn't mean it is suitable to house humans."

"For instance, we have found also that there is still a lot of hydrogen in the atmosphere, and hydrogen is not necessarily something that we'll be comfortable with as a human being," Tinetti said.

A Canadian-led team announced similar findings Tuesday and in a paper just submitted to the Astronomical Journal for publication, these scientists suggest it might even be raining there.

Discovered in 2015, the planet known as K2-18b is twice the size of Earth with eight times the mass, and while it's thought to be rocky, no one knows if water's flowing on the surface.

Its star, a red dwarf, is considerably smaller and cooler than our sun, a yellow dwarf, and its atmosphere is also different than ours.