In a recent discovery, a team of astronomers have found out the presence of an exoplanet that shows a promising super-Earth ice or Water world. The NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has found a distant earth, discovered several years ago, could be an “eyeball” planet that has an iris-like ocean surrounded by a sea of solid ice that might harbour life. The exoplanet, LHS-1140 b, discovered in 2017, was initially thought to be a “mini-Neptune” swirling with a dense mixture of water, methane and ammonia. However, the new finding, accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters suggests that the planet is icier and wetter than the scientists though, meaning it could support life. NASA's Satellite GOLD Discovers 'Alien Objects' in Earth's Upper Atmosphere, Scientists Struggle To Explain Mysterious X and C-Shaped Structures Planet's Ionosphere.

The new findings, led by Université de Montréal, challenge the previous findings about LHS-1140 b. The exoplanet is located approximately 48 light-years away in the constellation Cetus. The new data from JWST suggests it is more likely a rocky or water-rich planet larger than Earth.

Emphasising the significance of the discovery, Charles Cadieux, the lead author and doctoral student at Université de Montréal, stated, “LHS 1140 b could well be our best bet to one day indirectly confirm liquid water on the surface of an alien world beyond our solar system.”

The exoplanet orbits a red dwarf star in its habitable zone, where the temperature could support liquid water on the surface. The analysis of JWST data, combined with previous observations from other space telescopes, indicates that LHS 1140 b may have the presence of an atmosphere rich in nitrogen, which is similar to that of Earth. Earth’s Inner Core Has Slowed Down for the First Time in Decades and Rotating in Reverse Direction, Confirms Scientists: What Does It Mean?

Ryan MacDonald, a NASA Sagan Fellow at the University of Michigan, who played a crucial role in analysing the planet's atmosphere, noted, “This is the first time we have ever seen a hint of an atmosphere on a habitable zone rocky or ice-rich exoplanet.”

According to the research, 10 percent to 20 percent of LHS 1140 b’s mass could be composed of water. The current models suggest that it might be a snowball planet with a bull' s-eye ocean, expanding about 4,000 kilometres in diameter, and having a potential comfortable surface temperature of 20 degrees Celsius at its centre.

Although the findings are promising, the researchers stress the urgent need for extra JWST observations to confirm the presence of a nitrogen-rich atmosphere and search for other gases. This underscores the importance of continued exploration and study of the cosmos.

LHS 1140 b is an exceptional candidate for future habitability studies, offering a unique opportunity to explore a world that could potentially support life. This discovery, underscores the importance of continued exploration and study of the cosmos, as we seek to uncover the mysteries of the universe and our place within it.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jul 10, 2024 10:43 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website