Telescope data suggests there is liquid water on ice planet

Story at a glance


  • Scientists theorize the exoplanet known as LHS 1140 could resemble a snowball planet, with liquid water on the side that always faces the star it orbits.

  • It lies in the so-called “Goldilocks” zone where planets are believed to potentially be habitable.

  • Data from the James Webb telescope suggests the planet potentially contains a significant amount of liquid water.

(NewsNation) — Data from the James Webb telescope has suggested there is liquid water on an exoplanet that could be a super-Earth ice planet.

Known as LHS 1140 b, the exoplanet has interested scientists for some time. It’s relatively close to our solar system, at least in cosmic terms, located 49 light years from Earth. It orbits a red dwarf star that forms the center of that system.

Most importantly, it exists in what’s known as the “Goldilocks” zone, a term for the area where planets are likely to be habitable.

Until recently, a major question about LHS 1140 b has been whether it was a mini-Neptune, gas giant-type planet composed mostly of hydrogen and helium or if it was a so-called super-Earth, a rocky or water-rich planet larger than our own.

A team of scientists led by the University of Montreal analyzed new data from the James Webb telescope and other telescopes to determine it’s likely the planet is not a gas giant and potentially contains a significant amount of liquid water.

Data showed the planet is much less dense than expected for a rocky planet, with a possibility that 10 to 20% of its mass could be from water. Scientists theorize that it could resemble a snowball planet, with liquid water on the side that always faces the star it orbits.

Scientists say there is even a chance that LHS 1140 b has a nitrogen-rich atmosphere like Earth, which could create the conditions necessary to support liquid water.

All that makes it a good candidate for habitability studies. However, more data needs to be collected to determine if the planet does have an atmosphere and to determine what elements may be present.

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