The researchers discovered that K2-18b, which is now being called super-Earth, and its neighbor planet, both orbit a red dwarf star, named K2-18, which is situated in the constellation Leo, around 111 light years away from Earth, reported UdeMNouvelles - Université de Montréal. While learning about the potential super-Earth exoplanet - super-Earth meaning it has a mass similar to Earth - scientists discovered that there could be another exoplanet orbiting its same parent star. K2-18b, scientists say, could be in an excellent location for alien life to emerge-having ideal conditions for surface water, a fundamental ingredient for life, to exist.
The lead author Ryan Cloutier, from the University of Montreal, stated that being able to cover the mass and density of K2-18b was enormous but to find a new exoplanet was fortunate and equally exciting. Based on the discoveries related K2-18b so far, it could be an exoplanet that may possibly host extraterrestrial life.
The latest study, by scientists at the University of Texas, Scarborough, and the University of Montreal, Canada, was conducted out using the data from the European Southern Observatory. HARPS is created to measure radial velocities of stars, which are influenced by the presence of orbiting planets.
In order to figure out whether the planet was a scaled-up version of Earth (mostly rock), or a scaled-down version of Neptune (mostly gas), Cloutier and co-authors had to first figure out the planet's mass. HARPS used the 3.6m telescope of ESO at La Silla Observatory, in Chile to gather that data.
Current technology prevents us from being able to definitively say which one it is but the fact that it could be either is a huge leap forward in our understanding of this distant solar system.
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As for the neighbouring planet K2-18c, the researchers concluded that it was quite close to the sun and therefore uninhabitable due to high temperatures, but like the K2-18b it is also a Super-Earth.
"K2-18b is now one of the best targets for atmospheric study, it's going to the near top of the list".
The discovery of a second planet in the K2-18 star system was something of a good fortune.
"If you can get the mass and radius, you can measure the bulk density of the planet and that can tell you what the bulk of the planet is made of", said Cloutier.
It was while looking through the data of K2-18b that Mr Cloutier noticed unusual signals, which the researchers realised was a second exoplanet.
They're clearly more interested in K2-18b, with researchers saying the planet will be a prime target for Nasa's James Webb Space telescope, which will launch in 2019. After ruling out the possibility of noise, the astronomers announced a second planet called K2-18c.