- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2019

Astronomers announced this week they have detected water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet outside of the solar system, making it the first exoplanet in a star’s “habitable” zone to show signs of moisture.

“Finding water in a potentially habitable world other than Earth is incredibly exciting,” said University College London’s Angelos Tsiaras, the study’s lead author, to Australia’s ABC News.

Mr. Tsiaras’ team wrote in Nature Astronomy Wednesday that the planet, known as exoplanet K2-18b, is twice the size of Earth and in the constellation Leo about 110 light-years away. They said the planet likely has a large amount of water embedded in the planet’s surface, though scientists aren’t sure whether it’s an icy or rocky planet.

This is the first planet to be found in the habitable zone, also known as the “Goldilocks zone,” to contain water; previously water had only been found in Jupiter’s gases.

Mr. Tsiaras stressed that this is not a new Earth, but it opens up many other possibilities.

“It is significantly heavier, and it has a different atmospheric composition,” he said. “However, it brings us closer to answering the fundamental question: Is the Earth unique?”

The planet orbits a red dwarf star and is estimated to have a temperature of -73 to 46 degrees Celsius.


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