Astronomers have discovered a giant alien water world orbiting a distant star.
The planet – known as GJ1214b – is covered by a global ocean that measures more than 15,000km deep.
The mysterious world is also shrouded by a permanent, thick atmosphere of hydrogen and helium which blocks all visible light from its sun. ??Nevertheless, the planet is plagued by extreme and constant surface temperatures of 120C-282C.
“It would be very difficult to imagine life as we know it on the surface. It’s hot and dark and there are probably no rocky surfaces like we have on Earth,” David Charbonneau at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics told the Guardian. ??
“[However], using the Hubble, we can look at the atmosphere and say not only whether it’s habitable, but whether it’s inhabited. If we find oxygen in the atmosphere things will get really interesting, because on Earth all the oxygen in the atmosphere comes from life.”
Charbonneau explained that his team had deployed eight amateur-sized telescopes to detect the watery planet – which reportedly has a radius 2.7 times as large as the Earth’s and orbits at a distance of two million kilometers from its sun.
Based on initial measurement, astronomers have hypothesized that planet’s mass is 6.6 times greater than the Earth’s, with a composition of 75% water, 22% silicon and 3% iron (solid core).??
A detailed account of Charbonneau’s findings has been published in this week’s edition of Nature and can be accessed here.
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