The Hubble Space Telescope has made a groundbreaking discovery. Water has been found on a planet not much larger than Earth.
Although in recent months news about sensational astronomical discoveries has been dominated by the James Webb Space Telescope, the ancient Hubble telescope is by no means idle and continues to provide a wealth of fascinating data. It was with his help that scientists managed to discover it the smallest exoplanet so far whose atmosphere contains water vapor.
Water found on a planet 97 light-years away
Planet GJ 9827d is located in the distance 97 light years from us and orbits a red dwarf in the constellation Pisces. Its diameter is about twice that of Earth. This last factor is very important here because Until now, direct observations of the atmosphere of such small planets have not been possible. The new discovery is therefore a significant breakthrough in this context.
But it’s time to answer another question – can GJ 9827d be the second Earth we are looking for? Unfortunately, this seems unlikely. While there is little doubt that there is water in the planet’s atmosphere, the rest of the conditions there are especially so surface temperature exceeding 400 °C, it rather excludes any colonizing tendencies.
According to scientists, we are dealing here with a celestial body resembling either Neptune with a thick atmosphere full of water vapor, or Europa, a moon of Jupiter, with huge amounts of water accumulated just below the surface.
Still, the researchers’ latest discovery is an important milestone in the search for Earth-like planets. Thanks to their refined methodology, it will be possible to conduct a detailed analysis of subsequent objects, not only by the Hubble Space Telescope, but also by the James Webb Space Telescope, whose high resolution will allow for much more accurate observations. Either way, it promises to be a fascinating time for all astronomy enthusiasts.