Planet 8.6 times Earth’s size could support life: NASA

The James Webb Space Telescope has made some amazing discoveries since it first launched in 2021: the rings of Nepture, giant distant galaxies, the looming death of a star and a question mark in deep space.

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Now the telescope has given astronomers more data on the exoplanet K2-18 b, NASA and The European Space Agency said.

The planet was first observed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, but the Webb Telescope has given additional details of the planet.

The exoplanet is huge, 8.6 times the size of Earth and contains methane and carbon dioxide, meaning that the planet could have a “hydrogen-rich atmosphere and a water ocean-covered surface” that could support life.

There is a shortage of ammonia.

K2-18 b orbits dwarf star K2-18 in the constellation Leo about 120 light-years from Earth. It is in what is considered a habitable zone from the dwarf star.

“Our findings underscore the importance of considering diverse habitable environments in the search for life elsewhere,” said Nikku Madhusudhan, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge and lead author of the paper that examined the data, according to the ESA. “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.”

More study is needed, specifically, scientists want to confirm that there is DMS, or dimethyl sulfide, on the planet. DMS, according to the agencies, is only produced by life. On Earth, it is created by phytoplankton.

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