Observation of water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet ‘unconfirmed’

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Paris: A recent study considered that what was announced in 2019 of the detection of water vapor in the atmosphere of a habitable planet outside the solar system is “uncertain”, according to the study’s author Monday.

“There may be water vapor around K2-18b, but we are not sure at the moment,” astrophysicist Bruno Besar of the Paris-BSL Observatory told AFP.

methane gas

The study, published Thursday in the journal “Nature Astronomy”, indicated that the calculations made using data dating back to 2019 showed that what was observed was methane, not water, although the researcher believed that “methane is not the only gas available” in the atmosphere of the planet in the constellation. Leo, which is 110 light-years away from the solar system, “but also water vapor.”

The announcement of the monitoring of water vapor in 2019 caused a sensation among planetary scientists, as it was the first time that water vapor was observed in the atmosphere of a planet located in the “livable zone” of its solar system, meaning that, like Earth, it is located not very close Not very far from its star (the source of heat), but in a suitable location in terms of temperature for the formation of liquid water and the growth of life as we know it. It is a temperature approximately equal to that prevailing on Earth.

bigger than the earth

This planet is twice as large as Earth and eight times more massive, and is described as a “Magnified Earth” or a “Mini Neptune”. The 2019 study was based on data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope to analyze the light that crosses the atmosphere. The results revealed the molecular signature of water vapor, according to the researchers.

The team of scientists from the Paris Observatory and the German Max Planck Institute used this data. They do not question the possibility of the presence of water in the planet’s atmosphere, but they confirm that the recorded signals “may be caused by methane gas,” according to Bezar.

It is expected that James Webb, the most powerful telescope ever launched into orbit and enter service soon, will contribute to resolving this issue, and its program notes the atmosphere monitoring of the planet K2-18b, according to Bezar.

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