Scientists have shown that water is likely to be a major component of those exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars) which are between two to four times the size of Earth. It will have implications for the search of life in our Galaxy. The work is presented at the Goldschmidt conference in Boston.
Searching the cosmos for planets similar to earth will eventually help us answer whether or not our planet is the only one in the universe that supports life.
And according to our current theories about life, and how it came into existence, water plays a crucial role.
Where there is water, there is life, or at least there should be.
Now, astronomers exploring the universe for exoplanets have come to the conclusion that most of the planets that have been discovered so far may have surfaces covered in vast amounts of water.
Not only are these planets bearers of huge amounts of water, they are usually up to two or three times more massive than our planet.
This is according to a new study by scientists from Harvard University who looked at the data of more than 4,000 confirmed exoplanets.
This fact, they say, has huge implications for the existence of alien life.
Speaking about the new study, Dr. Li Zeng said: “It was a huge surprise to realize that there must be so many water-world. We have looked at how mass relates to radius, and developed a model which might explain the relationship.
According to the newly-presented model, exoplanets that have a radius of about 1.5 times that of Earth will be most likely rocky in nature, while exoplanets with a radius of 2.5times of Earth are most likely water-worlds.
But, there’s always a but.
“This is water, but not as commonly found here on Earth,” Zeng explained.
“Their surface temperature is expected to be in the 200 to 500-degree Celsius range. Their surface may be shrouded in a water-vapor-dominated atmosphere, with a liquid water layer underneath.”
“Moving deeper, one would expect to find this water transforms into high-pressure ices before we reaching the solid rocky core. The beauty of the model is that it explains just how composition relates to the known facts about these planets,” he added.
Dr. Li Zeng further explained: “Our data indicate that about 35% of all known exoplanets which are bigger than Earth should be water-rich. These water worlds likely formed in similar ways to the giant planet cores (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) which we find in our own solar system. The newly-launched TESS mission will find many more of them, with the help of ground-based spectroscopic follow-up. The next generation space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, will hopefully characterize the atmosphere of some of them. This is an exciting time for those interested in these remote worlds.”