A planet orbiting within the habitable zone of a distant star is discovered with water in its atmosphere.
This finding makes K2-18b a plausible candidate in the search for alien life.
Within ten years, new space telescopes might be able to determine whether K2-18b’s atmosphere contains gases that could be produced by living organisms, according to a study published in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.
According to The Guardian, it is the first time a planet in its star’s Goldilocks Zone – where the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist – has been found to bear the life-sustaining substance in the blanket of gases that surround it.
The discovery has raised hopes that the planet, and similar worlds spotted in recent years, not only have conditions that can be suited to life, but in some cases may host living organisms, The Guardian reported.
The BBC noted that the habitable zone is the region around a star where temperatures are sufficiently benign for water to exist in liquid form on the surface of a planet.
K2-18b is 111 light-years from Earth, too far to send a probe.
So the only option is to wait for the next generation of space telescopes to be launched in the 2020s and to look for gasses in the planet’s atmosphere that could only be produced by living organisms, according to UCL’s Dr Ingo Waldmann.