Scientists Say Newly-Discovered 'Super Earth' Could Be Hosting Alien Life

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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.

The astronomical discovery was made by researchers from the University of Texas and Montreal, who saw that a neighboring planet of the K2-18b (K2-18c) might also be a second "supernatural", as they call it due to similarities with our planet.

The planet, named K2-18b, has been dubbed a rocky "super earth" that orbits a Sun-like star.

The two new super-Earths orbit a red-dwarf star around 111 light years away. However, K2-18c doesn't really have a favourable atmosphere for life to thrive in it, as it's much closer to its star, being too hot to be habitable. In 2015, another research team discovered the planet K2-18b and noted that it lies with the habitable zone.

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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", 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.

"It wasn't a eureka moment because we still had to go through a checklist of things to do in order to verify the data", Cloutier said.

"If you can get the mass and radius, you can measure the bulk density of the planet and that can tell you what the bulk of the planet is made of", Cloutier said.

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Using sophisticated machine-learning techniques, the team figured out the planet could well be an Earth-like planet made mostly of rock and with a gaseous atmosphere. After figuring out the mass measurements of the planet, the team of researchers successfully established the fact that K2-18b is either largely a water planet with a thick ice-layer over it or it is essentially a rocky planet with a compact atmosphere full of gases, just like that of Earth, but larger in size.

Current technology prevents us from being able to definitively say which one it is but the fact that it could be either is a huge leap forward in our understanding of this distant solar system.

The list of targets for the forthcoming telescope is long, but Cloutier and his colleagues think K2-18b is a deserving candidate.

In addition to a signal occurring every 39 days from the rotation of K2-18, and one taking place every 33 days from the orbit of K2-18b, they noticed a different signal occurring every 9 days.

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Cloutier collaborated with an global team of researchers, including his supervisor U of T Scarborough Associate Professor Kristen Menou, and from the Observatoire Astronomique de l'Université de Genève, the Institute for research on exoplanets (iREx), Université de Grenoble and Universidade do Porto.

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