First Ever Find of Water on ‘Potentially Habitable’ Planet Gives Hope for Finding Alien Life

For the first time ever, astronomers have identified water trapped in the atmosphere of a remote planet orbiting a distant star.


When Gillian Anderson played Dana Scully she famously said, “The truth is out there” and who would have believed that astronomers around the world are now opening new folders on their desk tops rightfully titled - X-Files.


Just over twice the size of our planet and located an unimaginable 111 light years (650 million miles) from Earth, exoplanet “K2-18b” is the best chance we have ever had of finding extraterrestrial life . And we will know if its inhabited within the next decade with the advent of a new generation of space telescopes capable of telling us if its atmosphere holds gases that ‘could only’ have been produced by living organisms.


Mind Blowing Potential Signs Of Extraterrestrial Life

The new research was funded by the European Research Council and the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council; part of the UK Research and Innovation agency (UKRI). Headed up by Professor Giovanna Tinetti of University College London (UCL), she told reporters at the BBC that her team’s “incredible” detection of water on the planet, located in the habitable zone around a star, with a temperature that might support the presence of life - is “mind blowing”.


The scientific team behind the discovery compared planetary data gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope between 2016 and 2017 and established the types of chemicals in their atmosphere by studying changes measured in starlight while the planets orbited their suns. While sunlight filters through a planets' atmosphere its direction and color (temperature) is altered, and it is these tiny changes that the team compared.


A star’s ‘habitable zone’ is the region where water might exist in liquid form and K2-18b is located as such. Astronomers have detected water signatures on other planets but they have all been either too large or too hot to support life as we know it.


The researchers confirmed that the new planet’s temperature was cool enough for liquid water to have formed on its surface which is somewhere between 32-104 degrees Fahrenheit (0-40 degrees Celsius). And the scientists don’t think they are dealing with a cosmic puddle , quite the opposite, as computer models suggest that up to 50% of the planet’s atmosphere might be water.


Speaking to BBC News , Dr. Beth Biller, at Edinburgh University's Institute of Astronomy, said she believed that evidence of life on a planet around a distant star would eventually be discovered and she said it would be “a paradigm shift for all of humanity”.

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