A planet with the catchy name K2-18b has been identified as a likely candidate for a home to alien life after water was found in its atmosphere, BBC reported. Scientists believe that within 10 years, telescopes could be developed that are powerful enough to detect gases in the atmosphere that may have been emitted by living organisms in much the same way humans exhale carbon dioxide, for example. However, the fact that K2-18b is over 110 light-years away (approximately 1 trillion miles) does pose logistical issues for the celestial body to be a potential human colony any time soon, which is unfortunate if a recent report from The Inquisitr is accurate about Mars not being a viable option.
K2-18b resides within the “habitable zone” of its nearby star, meaning that any potential extraterrestrial life within its atmosphere is enjoying the types of temperatures we are familiar with here on Earth, between 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 104 degrees Fahrenheit on average. This also means there is very likely liquid water on the surface. With the planet being just over twice the size of Earth (in a category of planet coined “super-Earth”), should any bacteria have found their way to K2-18b at any point, it is very possible that some life could have evolved.
The findings, which were originally published in Nature Astronomy, state that “being the main molecular carrier of oxygen, water is a tracer of the origin and the evolution mechanisms of planets.” The report went on to state that “for temperate, terrestrial planets, the presence of water is of great importance as an indicator of habitable conditions.”
BBC reported that the excitement of some scientists has been met with skepticism from others. There is some evidence to suggest that planets falling into the size bracket of K2-18b are unlikely to have rocky surfaces and that such a large mass produces the kind of gravitational fields that make it very difficult for life to be sustained. This is, of course, based on our current understanding of how such things work.
One scientist from the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard University, Dr Laura Kreidberg, shared her cynicism with the British publication.
“The interior of the planet is much more like Neptune. Pressure and temperature increase with depth, so that before a rocky surface is reached, it is too hot and too high-pressure for complex molecules like DNA or any of the other building blocks of life to form.”