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Water discovered on ‘potentially habitable’ exoplanet

WASHINGTON, USA: Astronomers discover water for the first time ever in the atmosphere of an exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone of a distant star.

“Here, we report the detection of a spectroscopic signature of water in the atmosphere of K2-18b—a planet of eight Earth masses in the habitable zone of an M dwarf,” states scientific journal ‘Nature Astronomy’.

“Being the main molecular carrier of oxygen, water is a tracer of the origin and the evolution mechanisms of planets. For temperate, terrestrial planets, the presence of water is of great importance as an indicator of habitable conditions,” the journal quotes further.

The detection deems the exoplanet a plausible world hosting alien life in our galaxy.

Professor Giovanna Tinetti, lead scientist at the University College London, called the finding “mind blowing”.

“This is the first time that we have detected water on a planet in the habitable zone around a star where the temperature is potentially compatible with the presence of life,” she said.

Habitable zone is the region around a star where temperatures are feasible for water to exist in liquid form on the planet surface.

K2-18b is 111 light-years away from Earth, way too far to send a probe.

Scientists hope that the new generation of space telescopes, due launch in 2020s, would be able to detect gases produced by living organisms in the planet’s atmosphere.