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Earth-like water world: a habitable planet discovered near us

A new study of exoplanet LHS 1140 b using the Webb Space Telescope shows that it could potentially be a habitable water world, according to a study published on the preprint server arXiv. At the same time, a planet similar to Earth is relatively close to us, reports Space.

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Scientists are now searching for habitable planets outside the solar system. To do this, the planet must be in the habitable zone of its star, that is, this is a section of space where conditions allow liquid water to exist on the surface of the planet. So far, researchers believe that the main component for the emergence of life is water.

Although the planet LHS 1140 b, which lies 48 light-years away, which is considered relatively close by cosmic standards, has been studied before, it was only data from the Webb telescope that revealed its surprising characteristics. Still, scientists say their findings still need to be confirmed, but the data nevertheless shows something surprising.

Scientists believe that this super-Earth is actually covered in water ice, but has an ocean on one side. This happened because the planet turned out to be facing only one side towards its star, where the ice had melted.

Astronomers believe that it is a rocky planet that has an atmosphere and also has an ocean of liquid water. That is, this world may be potentially suitable for life.

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Past observations of planet LHS 1140 b have suggested that it could be either a mini-Neptune, meaning smaller than Neptune in the solar system, or a super-Earth, meaning a rocky planet larger than Earth. New research shows it’s still the second option. Scientists also believe that the planet has a nitrogen-rich atmosphere, just like Earth.

At the same time, the planet revolves around a star that is 5 times smaller than the Sun and is not very active, which means that its radiation should not evaporate the atmosphere and allow liquid water to exist on the surface.

But then the fun begins. Researchers suggest that the mass of this planet may consist of 10%-20% liquid water. But that’s not all. Scientists believe that this super-Earth is actually covered in water ice, but has an ocean on one side.

This happened because the planet turned out to be facing only one side towards its star, where the ice had melted. At the same time, the ocean, according to scientists, occupies only part of the second hemisphere and its diameter is approximately 4 thousand km.

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The authors of the study believe that the temperature of the ocean water on the planet LHS 1140 b could be approximately 20 degrees Celsius.

But additional observations are required to confirm the astronomers’ conclusions. If there is an Earth-like planet relatively close to us, with an ocean of water on the surface, it would be an important step forward in the search for habitable worlds.

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Jake Carter

Jake Carter is a researcher and a prolific writer who has been fascinated by science and the unexplained since childhood. He is always eager to share his findings and insights with the readers of anomalien.com, a website he created in 2013.