Tech & Science: Water vapour — and maybe even rain — found on distant world twice the size of Earth - PressFrom - United Kingdom
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Tech & ScienceWater vapour — and maybe even rain — found on distant world twice the size of Earth

19:40  11 september  2019
19:40  11 september  2019 Source:   msn.com

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Astronomers have found evidence of water vapor in the atmosphere of a Neptune- size planet 122 light-years from Nevertheless, says Colon, detecting water even on this hellish world is important. " Maybe it's like Earth and Venus, which have a similar chemical composition and size , but one ended

Water vapour — and maybe even rain — found on distant world twice the size of Earth © Image by Alex Boersma An artistic rendering of K2-18b.

Water vapour has been found in the atmosphere of a distant planet that’s just over twice the size of Earth. It’s the smallest world yet found with water in its surrounding atmosphere, and it’s possible that it even rains liquid water there. That makes this world a tantalizing candidate in the ongoing search for extraterrestrial life outside our cosmic neighborhood.

Finding water around an exoplanet (a world outside our Solar System) is particularly exciting for scientists because water is a critical ingredient for life on our planet. It could equally be pivotal for life that exists elsewhere in the Universe. Researchers have found this precious molecule around exoplanets before, but these worlds have not been suitable places for life to thrive. They’ve been large balls of gas, similar in size to Jupiter or Neptune, lacking any kind of surface for life as we know it to exist.

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Water is a transparent, tasteless, odorless, and nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth 's streams, lakes, and oceans, and the fluids of most living organisms.

The Earth is a watery place. But just how much water exists on, in, and above our planet? They are only small in relation to the size of the Earth . This image attempts to show three dimensions, so each In fact, how do you account for the water flowing down a driveway on a day when it didn't rain ?

This planet, detailed in a study accepted by the Astronomical Journal, is a bit more unique. Named K2-18b, it’s about nine times as massive as our own Earth, a type of world often referred to as a mini-Neptune. Worlds of this size are plentiful in our Galaxy but lacking in our own Solar System. K2-18b also orbits in a sweet spot around its host star known as the habitable zone where temperatures are just right for water to pool on a planet’s surface. That means this planet shares some very significant traits with our planet. “For the first time, a planet in this temperature regime — a regime that is very, very similar to the Earth — we are demonstrating that there is actually liquid water,” Björn Benneke, an exoplanet researcher at the University of Montreal and lead author on the study published in the Astronomical Journal, tells The Verge.

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Water vapour , along with copious amounts of hydrogen, was found in the atmosphere of HAT-P-11b, which whizzes around its star in a 4.9-day, egg-shaped orbit. HAT-P-11b is about four times the size of Earth and is among the smallest exoplanets discovered. Atmospheres are telltales of a planet´s

A cloud-free atmosphere has allowed scientists to pick out signs of water vapour on a distant planet the size of Neptune: the smallest "exoplanet" ever to reveal its chemical But you can imagine that eventually we want to be able to detect molecules in the atmospheres of even smaller planets.

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While finding water is a big deal for exoplanet researchers, it’s unlikely that this world is awash in oceans. In fact, it seems unlikely that the surface of the planet is rocky because of its size. “These planets are not going to look a thing like Earth,” Sara Seager, an exoplanet expert and professor at MIT who was not involved in this research, tells The Verge. “It’s definitely not rocky as we know a rocky planet to be.” K2-18b also orbits around a star very unlike our Sun. Altogether, these factors significantly decrease the chances that life could survive there.

Researchers first found K2-18b, thanks to NASA’s Kepler space telescope, a spacecraft located nearly 100 million miles from Earth that hunted for exoplanets for most of the last decade. Whenever an exoplanet passes directly between its parent star and Earth, it slightly dims the star’s light, which is a minuscule change that Kepler could detect. By observing these transits, Kepler discovered more than 2,000 exoplanets. In 2015, the spacecraft caught K2-18b, which is located 111 light-years away from Earth.

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Answering the question about how much water on earth is drinkable by providing data found on related NGO, scientific research The United States Geological Survey provides a visual illustration (represented in spheres) as to the amount of available water in comparison to the size of the earth .

Illustration showing all of Earth ’s water , liquid fresh water , and water in lakes and rivers. Credit: Howard Perlman, USGS/illustraion by Jack Cook According to this new study, the world ’s oceans also date back 4.6 billion years, when all the worlds of the inner Solar System were still forming.

Water vapour — and maybe even rain — found on distant world twice the size of Earth © Image: NASA

Then, in 2016 and 2017, Benneke and his team used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, currently in orbit around Earth, to learn more about K2-18b’s atmosphere. The chemicals and molecules that surround an exoplanet can tell us a lot about what might be lurking on the surface of the distant world. For instance, the significant amounts of methane in Earth’s atmosphere are a byproduct of the many biological organisms that live here.

Studying the atmosphere of an exoplanet is particularly tough for worlds that are similar in size to Earth. The light from these faraway space rocks is easily overpowered by the light coming from their parent stars, making them incredibly hard to see. And in order to figure out what’s in an exoplanet’s atmosphere, researchers need to observe light from the star as it filters through the “outer edges” of the world. When the light passes through the gas, it gets warped ever so slightly, indicating the types of molecules that are present. It’s an incredibly delicate — and challenging — measurement to make.

Studying the atmosphere of an exoplanet is particularly tough

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Scientists say they've spotted water vapor and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere of a huge gas planet some 130 light-years from Earth One day they could do the same with smaller, earth - sized planets, they say Another neat finding : The authors say planets in the system formed as Earth did

Scientists have detected water vapor and possibly even liquid water clouds on a strange exoplanet. Because this study has found evidence for liquid water and hydrogen in this exoplanet's atmosphere and it lies within the habitable zone, there is a possibility that this world is habitable.

Researchers got lucky with K2-18b because it has an atmosphere that extends far out into space, making it a bit easier to observe. “It’s a bit like a hybrid planet that maybe has a rocky ice core, but then most of its volume is actually gas,” Benneke says. Additionally, it orbits around a type of faint, small star known as a red dwarf, which doesn’t have as much light as a star like our Sun. That makes it easier to study planets that might be orbiting nearby.

Benneke and his team observed the planet as it transited eight times, allowing them to detect water vapour in the atmosphere. Then they did some climate modeling and found that the vapour is likely forming into clouds where water condenses and then raining down onto the planet — just like on Earth. “If you talk to any biologist, they don’t care about vapour; they care about liquid water,” says Benneke. “Because biology only works when you have liquid water.”

Still, there’s quite a lot we don’t know about this planet, especially the composition of its surface. Seager notes that exoplanets that are presumed to be rocky like Earth, Venus, or Mars are typically less than 1.6 times the size of our planet. This one is 2.3 times the size of Earth, which means the surface is very likely not rocky. “It’s quite a bit above that threshold,” says Seager. Either it’s a rocky core surrounded by a giant envelope of an atmosphere, or it’s possible that half of it is made up of water ice. Either option is not very conducive to having oceans of water on a rocky ground like here on Earth. “These objects that are mini-Neptunes, they’re extremely common, and we don’t know what they are,” says Seager.

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Paris (AFP) - In a technical feat, astronomers said Wednesday they had detected water vapour in the atmosphere of a planet the size of Neptune orbiting a star some 130 light years from Earth .

Researchers had therefore suspected that water also exists on planets of a similar size outside our solar system. According to Tinetti, this could only occur if the atmosphere contains a significant amount of water vapour . While it is unlikely that life exists on HD 189733b or any similar exoplanet

The search is still on for the biggest get of all: a rocky exoplanet with water

So while today’s findings are big, the search is still on for the biggest prize of all: a rocky exoplanet with water in its atmosphere. When that happens, it’ll be a big day for the exoplanet community, producing the closest analog to Earth we’ve found yet.

The next step is to learn more about what K2-18b looks like and what other gases might live in the planet’s atmosphere. Scientists could get this information as more powerful telescopes come online in the years ahead. Notably, NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, which will be the most powerful observatory after it launches in 2021, could tell us more about the surface and atmosphere of K2-18b. The telescope will be able to study worlds that are smaller than K2-18b and more akin to our planet, in addition to mini-Neptunes and worlds orbiting in the habitable zones of their stars.

“This is the first step toward really kind of exploring planets that are at the right temperature around other stars to see what’s going on there,” says Benneke. For now, we know that whatever is going on there is likely wet, but it might not be very lively.

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NASA’s Spitzer reveals surface conditions of distant exoplanet.
The hunt for exoplanets has ramped up in recent years as advancing telescope technology is allowing scientists to spot the telltale signs of planets orbiting distant stars. 

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