'Super-Earth' that may host life found

'Super-Earth' that may host life found

The team, led by Ryan Cloutier, a PhD student at the University of Toronto's department of astronomy and astrophysics, analysed the data collected from the European Southern Observatory (ESO). 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.

Both exoplanets orbit K2-18 (also known as EPIC 201912552), a red dwarf star located approximately 111 light-years away in the constellation Leo. When the planet K2-18b was first discovered in 2015, it was found to be orbiting within the star's habitable zone, making it an ideal candidate to have liquid surface water, a key element in harbouring conditions for life as we know it. "Once all the boxes were checked it sunk in that, wow, this actually is a planet", said Ryan Cloutier, who had the target of finding at least one new exoplanet during the course of his Ph.D. They measured radial velocities of stars, which can reveal the existence of planets located around the measured stars. This kind of movement can indicate that a star is being pulled by the gravitational force of orbiting planets.

Trying to find out whether the planet is more like a scaled-down version of Neptune made mostly of gas, or a scaled-up version of Earth made mostly of rock, the researchers used radial velocity measurements of its star, and a machine learning calculator.

It has a bulk density of 3.7g/cm and is either a mostly rocky planet with a small gaseous atmosphere - like Earth, but bigger - or a mostly water planet with a thick layer of ice on top of it. James Webb Space Telescope is created to observe some of the most distant events and object in the cosmos in the most exceptional clarity.

According to Cloutier, while the current data does not provide scientists with enough information to be able to narrow those two options down, using the James Webb Space Telescope, which launches in 2019, will allow them to be able to probe the atmosphere and get closer to an answer.

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University of Montreal Professor René Doyon added: "There's a lot of demand to use this telescope, so you have to be meticulous in choosing which exoplanets to look at".

Astronomers were aware of one of the exoplanets, K2-18b.

Other researchers on the team are affiliated with the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, France's University of Grenoble, and the University of Porto in Portugal.

While combing through their data, researchers discovered that K2-18b was situated right next to yet another super-earth, a newly discovered exoplanet named K2-18b that scientists believe is also roughly the same mass as Earth.

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