September 14, 2019

This is Pretty Epic

Specifically, it involves EPIC201912552 and even more specifically  EPIC201912552b a large terrestrial planet orbiting it.

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack team of Science Babes explains...

"Mercifully, the planet is also referred to as K2-18b and the rest is in this NASA press release"

With data from the Hubble Space Telescope, water vapor has been detected in the atmosphere of an exoplanet within the habitable zone of its host star. K2-18b, which is eight times the mass of Earth, is the only planet orbiting a star outside the solar system (or "exoplanet”) known to have both water and temperatures that could support life. Image credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

K2-18b was discovered some years ago and, despite being theoretically in the habitable zone, was viewed as unlikely to have water or life due to its star's mercurial nature. It orbits a red dwarf star quite close in and the dwarf in question is one that flares a lot, and emits considerible UV radiation.

However, Hubble has discovered that the planet is, in fact quite wet. This could mean it's a Neptune type planet that's boiling away or it might be a very large Earth like planet that has been able to retain its atmosphere due to high gravity and, perhaps, a strong magnetic field.

In either case, it's warm, wet ,and while quite unlike Earth in various ways it would seem now to have at least the potential for life of some kind....which is indeed pretty epic.

And logically, there ought not to be any downside.

Alas, it's 2019. There's always a downside. It seems that The Weather Channel has noted the clouds too and has begun running a story on K2 18b's weather, which means we can look forward to more weather reports of negligible relevance to us resulting in even LESS local coverage on the Weather Channel in the future.

In any event, such minor annoyances notwithstanding, that we're finding these things is pretty awesome.  While water vapor has not been found on an earth sized, habitable zone world before now, there are quite a few potential candidates for life-bearing planets. Here is a conservative list of the exo-planets currently thought to be potentially habitable, minus K2-18b which was on it some years ago but was removed and has not, as of yet, been put back.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 01:45 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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