Researchers spotted water vapor signatures in the atmosphere.
Researchers spotted water vapor signatures in the atmosphere.
We keep waiting for scientists to say they have found an exoplanet with water -- just like Earth. And now, it seems, researchers may have found the next best thing: One of numerous Earthlike planets identified by NASA telescopes has signatures of water vapor in its atmosphere.
     This is the first time researchers have been able to detect water vapor signatures in the atmosphere of an exoplanet -- a planet beyond our solar system -- that is in the habitable zone of its host star. The habitable zone is the area around a star in which liquid water could potentially pool on the surface of a rocky planet. "If confirmed by further studies, this will be the only exoplanet known to have both water in its atmosphere and temperatures that could sustain liquid water on a rocky surface," according to NASA.
     The focus of the research is a planet known as K2-18b, orbiting a small red dwarf star about 110 light-years away in the constellation Leo.  It was discovered by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope in 2015. Astronomers at the Center for Space Exochemistry Data at the University College London in the United Kingdom used data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to reach their conclusions.
     While exciting, the planet is different from Earth. Radiation from the red dwarf star may make the planet hostile to life, according to NASA. The planet's mass is also eight times greater than Earth, so the surface gravity would be higher.
     Scientists will be able to do more detailed work on atmospheres soon. New space telescopes, including the James Webb Space Telescope, will be able to examine exoplanet atmospheres in detail.


     Launch of Webb Space Telescope delayed

       If you would like to comment, like us on Facebook and tell us what you think.