CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — In a tantalizing first, scientists have discovered water at a planet outside our solar system that has temperatures suitable for life.
Two research groups announced this week that they’ve found water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet 110 light-years away in the constellation Leo. This so-called Super Earth is just the right distance from its star to conceivably harbor life.
It’s the only exoplanet known so far to have both water and temperatures needed for life, the University College London team reported in the journal Nature Astronomy on Wednesday. But lead author Angelos Tsiaras stressed, “This is definitely not a second Earth.”
Its star and atmosphere are so different than ours, “Earth-like conditions are not possible,” Tsiaras told reporters. “The only question that we’re trying to ask here, and we’re pushing forward, is the question of habitability.”
A Canadian-led team announced similar findings Tuesday. In a paper just submitted to the Astronomical Journal for publication, these scientists suggest it might even be raining there.
“This represents the biggest step yet taken toward our ultimate goal of finding life on other planets, of proving that we are not alone,” the study’s lead astronomer, Bjorn Benneke of the University of Montreal, said in a statement.