One of them sits right within the habitable zone where life could exist.
Researchers have discovered that a little-known exoplanet called K2-18b, could in fact be a “scaled up” version of Earth.
This is particularly exciting because it sits right within the ‘habitable zone’ which is the orbital corridor within which scientists believe alien life could exist.
If that weren’t exciting enough the team then realised that their newly discovered super-Earth wasn’t alone and in fact had a neighbour.
“Being able to measure the mass and density of K2-18b was tremendous, but to discover a new exoplanet was lucky and equally exciting,” explains lead author Ryan Cloutier, a PhD student in U of T Scarborough’s Centre for Planet Science.
Although K2-18b was actually discovered back in 2015, it is only now that researchers have been able to identify whether it was in fact a larger version or Earth or an inhabitable gassy planet like Neptune.
To help determine which one it was the team tried to work out the planet’s mass and radius using the ESO’s 3.6m telescope at La Silla Observatory, in Chile.
“If you can get the mass and radius, you can measure the bulk density of the planet and that can tell you what the bulk of the planet is made of,” says Cloutier.