Scientists Believe 'Super-Earth' Found Among 15 Exoplanets Might Hold Liquid Water

Lorenzo Tanos

New research has confirmed the presence of 15 exoplanets orbiting smaller, cooler red dwarf stars. These include three so-called "super-Earths," one of which is believed to have a key ingredient for life – liquid water.

In two studies recently published in the Astronomical Journal, researchers detailed their observations on data from the Kepler space telescope's K2 mission, which were combined with findings made using ground-based telescopes, such as Spain's Nordic Optical Telescope and Hawaii's Subaru Telescope. This allowed them to confirm the 15 new exoplanets and their host stars, including K2-155, which is located around 200 light-years from Earth. Three super-Earths were found to be orbiting that bright red dwarf, but it was the outermost planet, K2-155d, that stood out as possibly being within K2-155's habitable zone.

As noted by, climate modeling simulations suggested that there is a chance that K2-155d, which has a radius about 1.6 times greater than our planet's, might have liquid water on its surface. But while the researchers' simulations further hinted at the exoplanet having an "Earth-like" atmosphere and other features, the study's lead author, Teruyuki Hirano of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, stressed that it isn't 100 percent certain that K2-155d is indeed a habitable super-Earth with at least some of the necessary ingredients for life.

With this important disclaimer in mind, the researchers added that more information needs to be gathered to truly confirm whether or not the super-Earth called K2-155d could support life. This includes more specific estimates of host star K2-155's radius and temperature, which can only be determined through follow-up research, which, according to, may require the use of interferometric techniques. But the two new studies still yielded substantial takeaways, including the observation that planets orbiting red dwarfs might be similar to those that orbit stars with similar characteristics to the sun, though they may be smaller in number than those that orbit "solar-type stars."

"Red dwarf systems, especially coolest red dwarfs, are just beginning to be investigated, so they are very exciting targets for future exoplanet research," said Hirano.

"Large planets are only discovered around metal-rich stars. What we found was consistent with our predictions. The few planets with a radius about three times that of Earth were found orbiting the most metal-rich red dwarfs."