Science & Tech

Scientists discover huge exoplanet 120 light years from Earth that ‘could contain signs of life’

Scientists discover huge exoplanet 120 light years from Earth that ‘could contain signs of life’
Webb Telescope Captures First-Ever Image Of An Exoplanet’s Atmospheric Breakdown
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An exoplanet more than eight times the size of Earth and potentially habitable has been discovered by scientists.

Exoplanet K2-18 b was detected by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and piqued scientists’ interest after data suggested it may be covered in an ocean and have a hydrogen-rich atmosphere that could support life.

Scientists are also encouraged by a hint of the detection of the molecule dimethyl sulphide (DMS). On Earth, DMS is only produced by microbial life, but the team has yet to confirm the detection and search for evidence of biological activity.

The groundbreaking discovery of K2-18 b may see the exoplanet come under the unique classification of a “Hycean” planet – ones which are candidates for life thanks to their hydrogen-rich atmospheres and water cover.

The amount of methane and carbon dioxide combined with the shortage of ammonia suggests there may be a water ocean underneath a hydrogen-rich atmosphere in K2-18 b.

K2-18 b lies within the constellation of Leo and orbits a dwarf star called K2-18. It lies around 120 light years away from Earth and is within the habitable zone. However, scientists added that this does not necessarily mean it can support life.

Nikku Madhusudhan, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge and lead author of the paper, explained: “Our findings underscore the importance of considering diverse habitable environments in the search for life elsewhere.

“Traditionally, the search for life on exoplanets has focused primarily on smaller rocky planets, but the larger Hycean worlds are significantly more conducive to atmospheric observations.”

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