An insurmountable amount of resources have been dedicated by all of our Earth’s space agencies to locate extra-terrestrial life. The belief that our tiny speck of a planet located in the vast cosmos is not the only source of biological life in the universe has spurred many interplanetary missions to distant planets such as Saturn, Venus, etc.
However, according to a recent study, a little-known planet approximately 111 light-years away could perhaps be the first real testament to intelligent life beyond our tiny ball of blue and green.
The planet known as K2-18b, being described as a ‘super-Earth’, orbits within the Goldilocks zone or habitable zone of a red-dwarf star in the Leo constellation. The study conducted by the University of Toronto and the University of Montreal, Canada was in collaboration with a dataset coming from the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) which used the European Southern Observatory’s 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile.
“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 in University of Toronto Scarborough’s Centre for Planetary Science.
Using a machine-learning approach the researchers were able to determine that K2-18b was either a rocky planet with a bigger gaseous atmosphere than Earth or a water planet with a thick layer of ice on top of it.
“With the current data, we can’t distinguish between those two possibilities,” said Ryan Cloutier. “But with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), we can probe the atmosphere and see whether it has an extensive atmosphere or it’s a planet covered in water.”
While studying K2-18b the researchers also located another planet, which was in the same solar system, called as K2-18c. Researchers claimed that the newly discovered planet K2-18c, is quite close to the sun and is therefore uninhabitable due to the high temperatures, but like the K2-18b it is also a super-Earth.