HomeScience & TechLife beyond Earth? Water-rich exoplanets discovered outside our solar system

Life beyond Earth? Water-rich exoplanets discovered outside our solar system

In a major breakthrough in the search for life beyond our Earth, researchers have found a third category of exoplanets—water-rich—orbiting red dwarfs, the most common long-lived stars. It is an epochal step because for the first time other planets can be scientifically proven to be habitable, according to a report in Popular Science.

What are exoplanets?

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), an exoplanet is a planet that orbits other stars outside our solar system. NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has shown that the galaxy has more planets than stars. The elements of some of these planets are similar to those of our solar system, although they do not necessarily revolve around any stars, as there are some exoplanets that are free-floating and orbiting the galactic center. NASA estimates that in addition to iron or carbon, some may have enough water or ice.

What are the two categories of planets?

Astronomers have long divided planets into two categories based on their radii—rocky planets with a shorter radius and gaseous planets with a larger radius. Although water is present on Earth, it is classified as a rocky planet because water makes up only 0.02 percent of its total mass. Experts believed that the reason for the difference in radii is the different effect on the erosion of the planet’s atmosphere due to the radiation of the star around which the planets revolve. The rocky planets were left with a very thin atmosphere that formed a largely exposed rocky surface. Gas stars had larger radii because they were able to maintain a dense, puffy atmosphere.

What is the new finding?

However, in a new study published in the journal Science on September 8, scientists categorized planets based on density rather than radius and added another category of water-rich planets. The report says that although water is present on the planet; it is not in the form found here on Earth. The sample suggests that the water cannot be at the surface, but either in a combined form with magma or trapped below the surface. Excited researchers expect to find more about these exoplanets by targeting the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to investigate the habitability of other planets.

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