Scientists Discovered A Super-Earth Neighbor Of K2-18b Exoplanet

Pablo Tucker
December 7, 2017

"Being able to measure the mass and density of K2-18b was tremendous, but to discover a new exoplanet was lucky and equally exciting", stated lead author Ryan Cloutier, an astronomy and astrophysics Ph.D student at the University of Toronto and the University of Montreal's Institute for Research on Exoplanets.

New research has shown that exoplanet K2-18b, which orbits is parent stat K2-18 some 111 light-years away from Earth, could be a super-Earth. This solid planet which could be a scaled up version of Earth revolves around its star in the comfortable zone that indicates that it may be covered in liquid water and can be a planet with alien life. First discovered back in 2015, the planet is thought to lie within its star's habitable zone, and if it does indeed have a rocky core as scientists believe, it may well have liquid water on its surface.

The new study, by researchers at the University of Texas, Scarborough, and University of Montreal, Canada, was carried out using data from the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

Astronomers took a second look at an exoplanet and discovered it probably is a super-Earth.

As for the neighbouring planet K2-18c, the researchers concluded that it was quite close to the sun and therefore uninhabitable due to high temperatures, but like the K2-18b it is also a Super-Earth.

The telescope's High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (Harps) instrument was used to analyse K2-18b. They measured radial velocities of stars, which can reveal the existence of planets located around the measured stars.

"It was while looking through the data of K2-18b that we noticed something unusual", he said.

"When we first threw the data on the table we were trying to figure out what it was", Cloutier said.

Wasp-18b's remarkably close orbit to its star and lack of an Ozone adds to the unfriendly environment of the planet which is ten times larger than our solar system's most prominent, Jupiter.

Researchers will have to wait until 2019 to confirm the atmospheric conditions of K2-18b, when NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is set to launch. As per the researchers, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will play a significant role in finding out further information about this super-Earth. In addition to two regular signals - one every 39 days from the star's rotation and the other every 33 days from the planet's orbit - the researchers found a third signal occurring every nine days. "You have to ensure the signal isn't just noise, and you need to do a careful analysis to verify it, but seeing that initial signal was a good indication there was another planet", Cloutier said in the statement. "But whether or not there is surface water, we're going to have to do some follow up observations to figure that out for sure, because right now we just don't know".

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