Traces of Water found in the Atmosphere of an Exoplanet

On the day that India managed to place a satellite in orbit around the red planet another massive announcement has been turning heads in the search for extraterrestrial life.

One of the assumed requirements for life is water, however when searching on planets smaller than Jupiter they encountered a problem. All these planets seemed to have thick cloud cover which made it almost impossible to do useful spectroscopy on the atmosphere.

But for the first time a planet the size of Neptune orbiting a star 120 light years away in the constellation Cygnus. The atmosphere of this planet HAT-P-11b has a majority Hydrogen with 25% water vapour. However although this sign of water vapour has been detected the planet is not considered classically habitable with a surface temperature of 900K.

Although this planet has a very low chance of hosting life as we know it the detection sets the premise for further detections on planets with more comparable sizes. The even more exciting prospect would be if there was found a trace of methane in the atmosphere as this would be a very convincing signature of life.

With the discovery of planets making an increasing rate it won’t be long until we find Earth 2.0.


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