Cornell University astronomers discovered water molecules in the atmosphere of the planet 51 Pegasi.
51 Pegasi is a “hot-Jupiter”-like planet orbiting a star in the constellation of Pegasus — 50.9 light-years from Earth. Pegasi orbits its star once every 4.23 days and is about half the mass of our solar system’s biggest planet.
“We have presented a 5,6σ detection of water molecules in the atmosphere of the original hot Jupiter, 51 Peg b, providing the first confirmation that the 51 Peg Ab system is a double-lined spectroscopic binary,” the researcher’s wrote in their paper. “The best-matching model to the planet spectra from our grid contained molecular features from water only, with a volume mixing ratio of VMRH2O = 104.”
Researchers suspect that finding water in 51 Pegasi’s atmosphere means that the substance is quite common around the universe. Water is absolutely essential to life on Earth, and its presence in a gaseous form greatly enhances the chances of some kind of alien life developing. However, in the instance of 51 Pegasi, scientists were unable to detect gases like water carbon dioxide or methane at the observed wavelengths which could be associated with the development of conventional Earth-like life.
Numerous potentially habitable planets have been discovered in the last year.
Astronomers gleefully announced the discovery of a potential “second Earth” last August after finding a slight “wobble” of gravity tugging on the star Proxima Centauri. This indirect method of detection means scientists don’t currently know if the planet, called “Proxima b,” has an atmosphere or possesses a magnetosphere, but there’s already a lot speculation about the possibility of life on the planet.
Proximba b is by far the closest potentially habitable exoplanet to our solar system, but it would still take more than 1,000 years to arrive using current technology, according to Universe Today.
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