A group of astronomers may have discovered the Earth's long-lost cousin and discovered the first "habitable" Earth planet with water in its atmosphere, according to new research backed by the Hubble Telescope.
Known as K2-18 b, the mysterious exoplanet is twice as large as Earth at eight times its mass, but its atmosphere can help answer hot questions about the possibility of life beyond our solar system. A research article on the new find was published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Wednesday.
"Finding water in a potentially habitable world other than Earth is incredibly exciting," said Angelos Ciras of University College London, author of the study author.
He brings us closer to the answer to the basic question: Is the Earth unique?
However, Tsiras added that the planet should not be considered Earth 2.0, because "It is significantly heavier and has a different atmospheric composition."
First discovered in 2015, K2-18 b resides in the "habitable zone" – also known as the "1945 Goldfish Zone" – far away a solar system that sits exactly at its red dwarf star to keep liquid water on its surface. Researchers have noted that a star on a planet smaller and cooler than the sun on Earth can emit lethal radiation, potentially making the world hostile to life as we know it.
Water vapor was only found in the atmospheres of super-giants with hot gas, such as Jupiter.
Although people may not ever exist in the remote world of modern times technology, astronomer Johnny Horner of the University of Southern Queensland told ABC that the discovery will help researchers understand other planets like Earth to move forward.
"The fact that we can now make observations that allow us to investigate what's in the planet's atmosphere twice the radius of Earth, the orbit of a star just over four million kilometers away is just amazing, "said Horner.
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