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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope finds water vapour in exoplanet 97 light years away from Earth

ByVrinda Jain
Jan 30, 2024 09:30 PM IST

At 800 degrees Fahrenheit, the planet is as hot as Venus, thus if the atmosphere consisted mostly of water vapour, it would be an inhospitable and steamy place.

In a groundbreaking discovery, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope found water vapour on a small exoplanet. GJ9827d, which is approximately twice Earth's diameter, has the potential of being a planet with water-rich atmospheres, reported NASA.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope found water on an exoplanet. (NASA)
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope found water on an exoplanet. (NASA)

Björn Benneke of the Trottier Institute for Research on Exoplanets at Université de Montréal, told NASA, "This would be the first time that we can directly show through an atmospheric detection, that these planets with water-rich atmospheres can actually exist around other stars. This is an important step toward determining the prevalence and diversity of atmospheres on rocky planets." (Also Read: NASA's Hubble Telescope stuns people with 3 amazing captures of galaxies. See pics)

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Co-principal investigator Laura Kreidberg of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy added, "Water on a planet this small is a landmark discovery. It pushes closer than ever to characterizing truly Earth-like worlds."

While the astronomers' findings are impressive, they are unsure of whether the planet's atmosphere is primarily composed of water, left over from a primaeval hydrogen/helium atmosphere, or whether Hubble spectroscopically measured a small amount of water vapour in a puffy hydrogen-rich atmosphere.

According to NASA, as of right now, the team has two possibilities. One possibility is that the planet is still clinging to a water-laced, hydrogen-rich atmosphere. Alternatively, it might be a warmer Europa, the moon of Jupiter, whose crust has twice as much water as Earth. (Also Read: NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captures 'snowman' 6,000 light-years away from Earth. See pic)

At 800 degrees Fahrenheit, the planet is as hot as Venus, thus if the atmosphere consisted mostly of water vapour, it would undoubtedly be an inhospitable and steamy place.

In 2017, NASA's Kepler Space Telescope made the discovery of GJ 9827d. Every 6.2 days, it completes one orbit around a red dwarf star. The star, GJ 9827, is located in the constellation Pisces, 97 light-years from Earth.

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