Scientists Discover Super Earth With Icy Rocks 111 Light Years Away

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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.

As well as taking one giant leap closer to finding a potentially habitable exoplanet, the team also uncovered a second Earth-like planet orbiting K2-18. K2-18b, scientists say, could be in an excellent location for alien life to emerge-having flawless conditions for surface water, a fundamental ingredient for life, to exist.

An worldwide team of astronomers has found that a little-known exoplanet called K2-18b could be a scaled-up version of Earth, and also discovered the planet has a massive neighbor, K2-18c.

Both planets are orbiting the red dwarf K2-18 When the new WebSpace Telescope (NASA) spacecraft launches in 2019, the K2-18b will turn its lenses for the first time ...

'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 lead author Ryan Cloutier, at the University of Montreal.

The researcher, who had set a goal to discover a new exoplanet for his thesis, made the discovery by scouring data collected by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). By measuring the radial velocities of stars, which can be influenced by the presence of planets around those stars, HARPS can allow for the detection of the planets around the stars.

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Although K2-18b was actually discovered back in 2015, it is only now that researchers have been able to identify whether it was in fact a larger version or Earth or an inhabitable gassy planet like Neptune. HARPS used the 3.6m telescope of ESO at La Silla Observatory, in Chile to gather that data.

Researchers at the Centre for Planetary Sciences have found that K2-18b could very well be a scaled-up version of Earth. HARPS measurements provided information on the planet's mass, while the planet's radius was determined by other instruments that measure how much light it blocks from its parent star.

The team found the planet is either a mostly rocky planet with a gaseous atmosphere - like Earth, but bigger - or a mostly water planet with a thick layer of ice on top of it. Scientists, aside from two regular signals that they received every 39 days from the star's rotation and every 33 days from the planet's orbit, discovered a third signal which they received every nine days, which was the first indication that there might be another planet close to K2-18b.

'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, ' Mr Cloutier said.

It was while looking through the data of K2-18b that Cloutier noticed something unusual. After ruling out the possibility of noise, the astronomers announced a second planet called K2-18c.

René Doyon, the paper co-author, feels that there is a high demand to use JWST so one has to be careful while selecting which exoplanets to study.

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