A Greek scientist and a team of astronomers have discovered water in the atmosphere of an earth size planet orbiting within the habitable zone of a distant star.
According to the new findings, it makes the world, which is referred to as K2-18b, a plausible candidate in the search for alien life.
Details of the discovery were published this week in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy, which claims that within 10 years, new space telescopes might be able to determine whether K2-18b’s atmosphere contains gases that could be produced by living organisms.
Professor Giovanna Tinetti from the University College London, described the discovery as “mind-blowing”.
“This is the first time that we have detected water on a planet in the habitable zone around a star where the temperature is potentially compatible with the presence of life,” she said.
The habitable zone is the region around a star where temperatures are considered sufficiently benign for water to exist in liquid form on the surface of a planet.
The new planet is just over twice the size of Earth – in a planet category known as a “super-Earth” – and has a temperature cool enough to have liquid water, between zero and 40C.
“This is the only planet right now that we know outside the solar system that has the correct temperature to support water, it has an atmosphere, and it has water in it, making this planet the best candidate for habitability that we know right now,” said lead author Angelos Tsiaras, a Greek astronomer at University College London, said in a press conference.
Tsiaras studied Physics at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, before completing his Ph.D. at the University College London.