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

07 December 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", said the lead author of the study Ryan Cloutier, who is a PhD student in the Department of Astronomy, Université de Montréal Institute for research on exoplanets (iREx) and Scarborough's Centre for Planet Science and Astrophysics.

K2-18b even has a neighbouring sister planet, the cleverly named K2-18c, but is unlikely to host life because it is slightly closer to its Sun.

The humanity's search for extraterrestrial life could end with a new planet K2-18b, an exoplanet located 111 light years away, suggested a study conducted by University of Toronto.

SCIENTISTS have discovered a supersized version of Earth that could host life on a distant galaxy. Found orbiting the dwarf star's theoretical habitable zone, the planet became a prime candidate for researchers looking for planets that can theoretically support life.

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To perform the research, Cloutier, followed by his team of researchers, took the data from the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher in the European Southern Observatory's 3.6-meter telescope in La Silla Observatory in Chile.

While K2-18b and its newly discovered super-Earth nextdoor, K2-18c, are both roughly the same mass as Earth, their similarites may end there. In the process, they discovered that the planet also has a massive neighbor.

They found that the planet is probably mostly rocky with a gaseous atmosphere - like Earth, only bigger - however it may be a mostly water planet with a thick layer of ice, so further investigation is needed. HARPS allows for measurements of radial velocities of stars, which can be affected by the presence of nearby planets, to be taken with the highest accuracy now available.

"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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Spagnuolo had a long meeting with Smith and understood his disappointment at losing the starting job through no fault of his own. But when asked if Webb would handle the scout-team duties by himself this week, Spagnuolo said, "Probably not this week".

"With the current data, we can't distinguish between those two possibilities", he says. As per the researchers, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will play a significant role in finding out further information about this super-Earth.

By collecting so-called "radial velocity" data on K2-18, the scientists were able to estimate the size of K2-18b.

The next step, according to Cloutier, will be to probe the atmosphere for the presence of water with the help of the James Webb Space Telescope, the NASA/ESA/CSA telescope expected to be completed and launched in two years' time.

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