K2-18b: 'Super-Earth' That Could Host Alien Life Is Discovered


K2-18b: 'Super-Earth' That Could Host Alien Life Is Discovered

The planet known as K2-18b, being described as "Super-Earth" orbits within the Goldilocks zone or habitable zone of a red-dwarf star and is in the Leo constellation.

"And so we sort of know that, for this planet, it's got about the right temperature that it could have liquid surface water".

"Being able to measure the mass and density of K2-18b was tremendous, but to discover a new exoplanet was lucky and equally exciting", said Ryan Cloutier, a PhD student at the University of Toronto and the Université de Montréal Institute for Research on Exoplanets. While learning about the potential super-Earth exoplanet - super-Earth meaning it has a mass similar to Earth - scientists discovered that there could be another exoplanet orbiting its same parent star.

Astronomers have identified a distant exoplanet as a "super-Earth" that has the potential to harbor alien life.

Researchers have found that K2-18b could be a scaled-up version of Earth. The High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) planet-finding spectrograph installed on the telescope measures the radial velocities of stars, which are affected by any nearby planets, with the highest accuracy available, enabling it to detect even the smallest of planets. They measured radial velocities of stars, which can reveal the existence of planets located around the measured stars. Last month, another research team announced that the Earth-mass Ross 128b, which orbits a red dwarf star 11 light-years from Earth, is perhaps the most likely candidate for hosting alien life.

"With the current data, we can't distinguish between those two possibilities", said Cloutier.

"It was while looking through the data of K2-18b that we noticed something unusual", he said.

Researchers will have to wait until 2019 to confirm the atmospheric conditions of K2-18b, when NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is set to launch.

Wasp-18b's remarkably close orbit to its star and lack of an Ozone adds to the unfriendly environment of the planet which is ten times larger than our solar system's most prominent, Jupiter.

Engineers inspect the James Webb Space Telescope after cryogenic testing in Houston, November 19, 2017. "Once all the boxes were checked it sunk in that, wow, this actually is a planet", said Ryan Cloutier, who had the target of finding at least one new exoplanet during the course of his Ph.D. In addition to a signal occurring every 39 days from the rotation of K2-18, and one taking place every 33 days from the orbit of K2-18b, he noticed a different signal occurring every nine days. However, K2-18c doesn't really have a favourable atmosphere for life to thrive in it, as it's much closer to its star, being too hot to be habitable.

"When we first threw the data on the table we were trying to figure out what it was".