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

Science								Image Source ALEX BOERSMA

K2-18 is a red dwarf star in the constellation Leo and K2-18b was discovered in 2015.

Researchers at the Centre for Planetary Sciences have found that K2-18b could very well be a scaled-up version of 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.

However, not much was known about the exoplanet earlier, particularly about its composition, which is the reason researchers from the University of Texas and the University of Montreal made a decision to find out whether K2-18b is a rocky scaled-up version of Earth or a gassy object like Neptune.

The team which conducted the study with data from the European Southern Observatory, also discovered that the planet has a neighbor.

The dataset used by Cloutier, the lead author, and other researchers came from the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) using the ESO's 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla Observatory, in Chile. It couldn't maintain orientation as well as before, but it's "K2" phase still allowed it to spot many exoplanets like K2-18b.


They found the planet is mostly rock with a gassy atmosphere, just like earth, but more research is needed to be sure. The analysis of the radial velocity measurements also helped them discover another planet revolving around K2-18.

Canadian researchers have discovered that a previously-known exoplanet is several times bigger than Earth and orbits in what's often called the "Goldilocks zone" - a not-too-hot, not-too-cold region that could host liquid water.

Current technology prevents us from being able to definitively say which one it is but the fact that it could be either is a huge leap forward in our understanding of this distant solar system. "Once all the boxes were checked it sunk in that, wow, this actually is a planet". As per the researchers, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will play a significant role in finding out further information about this super-Earth. Water, as we know it, is a key component for the possibility of life.

University of Montreal Professor René Doyon added: "There's a lot of demand to use this telescope, so you have to be meticulous in choosing which exoplanets to look at".

Engineers inspect the James Webb Space Telescope after cryogenic testing in Houston, November 19, 2017. It's the closest rocky planet found in a habitable zone found since Proxima Centauri b in 2016, which is located only four light-years away.

"K2-18b is now one of the best targets for atmospheric study, it's going to the near top of the list", he said.

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