So far, small, Earth-size rocky planets have been targets in the search for potentially habitable exoplanets.
Last year, astronomers announced that water vapor staining in the atmosphere of an exoplanet called K2-18b with temperatures conducive to life. It's only in recent years that we have had the hard-science modeling tools and observational technology to address this question.
K2-18b is 2.6 times the radius and 8.6 times the mass of Earth, and orbits its star within the habitable zone, where temperatures could allow liquid water to exist, the researchers said.
His research team looked at the available atmospheric data to determine whether the amount of detectable water vapour is significant or not. Instead, they found the hydrogen envelope is "not too thick" and there may be a water layer that "could have the right conditions to support life", the statement added.
"To establish the prospects for habitability, it is important to obtain a unified understanding of the interior and atmospheric conditions on the planet - in particular, whether liquid water can exist beneath the atmosphere". As previously stated above that this is a planet similar to the size of Neptune which is larger than our little blue planet.
So, Madhusudhan and his team chose to take a closer look at K2-18b to see if, according to what we can observe, an ocean on the exoplanet would hit those inhospitable oceanic pressure levels. They also suggested that other chemicals such as methane and ammonia were lower than expected for this kind of atmosphere.
A team that is led by Nikku Madhusudhan from the University of Cambridge located in the United Kingdom has again analyzed K2-18B's mass, radius, and atmospheric data and concluded that it is "potentially habitable", from the study published here at The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Astronomers have dubbed the alien world K2-18b and its atmospheric conditions were unveiled in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
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Different models were presented and analyzed in an effort to find out how thick the layer of the hydrogen gas could be while still being able to support life underneath. These findings were then used to constrain the exoplanet's internal structure and thermodynamic properties using numerical modelling and statistical methods.
Given its size it's been suggested it's more like a small Neptune than a large Earth.
The "potentially habitable" exoplanet boasts an atmosphere that allows for liquid water to exist on the surface.
And they found the maximum amount of hydrogen that could explain the observed properties of the planet was around 6 percent of its mass - although most of the solutions had far less hydrogen. The team found a series of scenarios that could explain all the data available on the planet, including a rocky world like Earth, a mini-Neptune and a world completely covered by water.
Planets like K2-18b could become the targets of future observation missions with facilities such as the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, which will be capable of providing more detailed insights into these promising worlds.
"We wanted to know ... how deep the hydrogen goes", co-author Matthew Nixon, a PhD student at the Institute of Astronomy, said.