These two planets are probably made of water, according to a study

Two distant planets are likely made of water, according to research conducted with NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer telescopes. The so-called “water worlds” are orbiting a red dwarf star, the smallest and coldest type of star, according to a press release. from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The watery planets are 218 light-years away in the constellation Lyra, NASA says. And they are “unlike any planet found in our solar system,” the agency said. The finding that planets are likely made mostly of water comes from a study published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Thursday. A research team led by Caroline Piaulet, Ph.D. student at the Institute for Exoplanet Research at the University of Montreal, used NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to observe the distant planetary system. The planetary system they studied is called Kepler-138 because it is located within the field of view of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. The researchers knew about the existence of three exoplanets, the term for planets outside of our solar system, within the Kepler-138 system, but only discovered that two of them are likely made of water. They also discovered evidence of a fourth planet that had not been described before. But the finding is not as simple as it might seem. The scientists did not directly detect water on the exoplanets Kepler-138c and Kepler-138d. Instead, they compared the sizes and masses of the planets to the models to compare them. When they compared the planets to the models, they found that “a significant fraction of their volume, up to half, should be made of lighter materials.” than rock but heavier than hydrogen or helium.” Water is the most likely candidate for a material that is lighter than rock but heavier than hydrogen or helium, NASA says. “We previously thought that planets that were slightly larger than Earth were big balls of metal and rock, like enlarged versions of Earth, and that’s why we call them super-Earths,” said Björn Benneke, study co-author and professor of astrophysics at the University of Montreal, in the statement “However, we have now shown that these two planets, Kepler-138c and d, are quite different in nature and that a large fraction of their total volume is likely to be composed of water.” that astronomers theorized existed for a long time,” Benneke continued. The high temperatures on these planets mean they could be shrouded in a steamy atmosphere, according to NASA.” The temperature in Kepler-138d’s atmosphere is likely above the boiling point of water, and we expect a thick, dense atmosphere made of steam on this planet,” Piaulet said in the statement. “Only, under that steamy atmosphere, there could be high-pressure liquid water, or even water in another phase that occurs at high pressures, called supercritical fluid.” “Water worlds” are outside their star’s habitable zone, the area in which temperatures allow liquid water to exist on the surface of a rocky planet, which could support life. But the new planet described by the researchers, Kepler 138-e, falls into that perfect zone, according to the statement. This story was first published on CNN.com, “‘Unlike Any Planet Found In Our Solar System:’ These Two Planets Are Likely Made Of Water, Study Finds”

Two distant planets are likely made of water, according to research conducted with NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer telescopes.

The so-called “water worlds” are orbiting a red dwarf star, the smallest and coolest type of star, according to a press release from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The watery planets are 218 light-years away in the constellation Lyra, NASA says. And they are “unlike any planet found in our solar system,” the agency said.

The finding that planets are likely made mostly of water comes from a study published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Thursday. A research team led by Caroline Piaulet, Ph.D. student at the Institute for Exoplanet Research at the University of Montreal, used NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to observe the distant planetary system.

The planetary system they studied is called Kepler-138 because it is located within the field of view of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. Researchers knew of the existence of three exoplanets, the term for planets outside our solar system, within the Kepler-138 system, but have just discovered that two of them are likely made of water.

They also discovered evidence of a fourth planet that had not been described before.

But the finding is not as simple as it might seem. The scientists did not directly detect water on the exoplanets Kepler-138c and Kepler-138d. Instead, they compared the sizes and masses of the planets with models for comparison.

When they compared the planets to the models, they found “that a significant fraction of their volume, up to half, should be made of materials that are lighter than rock but heavier than hydrogen or helium.”

Water is the most likely candidate for a material that is lighter than rock but heavier than hydrogen or helium, NASA says.

“We previously thought that planets that were slightly larger than Earth were big balls of metal and rock, like enlarged versions of Earth, and that’s why we called them super-Earths,” said Björn Benneke, study co-author and professor of astrophysics at the University of Montreal, in the statement. “However, we have now shown that these two planets, Kepler-138c and d, are quite different in nature and that a large fraction of their total volume is likely to be made up of water.”

“It’s the best evidence yet for water worlds, a type of planet that astronomers have long theorized,” Benneke continued.

The high temperatures on these planets mean they could be shrouded in a steamy atmosphere, according to NASA.

“The temperature in Kepler-138d’s atmosphere is probably above the boiling point of water, and we expect a thick, dense atmosphere made of steam on this planet,” Piaulet said in the statement. “Only, under that steamy atmosphere, there could be high-pressure liquid water, or even water in another phase that occurs at high pressures, called supercritical fluid.”

“Water worlds” are outside their star’s habitable zone, the area where temperatures allow liquid water to exist on a rocky planet’s surface, potentially supporting life. But the new planet described by the researchers, Kepler 138-e, falls into that perfect zone, according to the statement.

This story was first published on CNN.com,”‘Unlike Any Planet Found In Our Solar System:’ These Two Planets Are Likely Made Of Water, Study Finds

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