Research led by scientists from the University of Toronto, published in the Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics has identified a super-Earth in the habitable zone of its parent star.
Using HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher) at the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in Chile the team was able to identify the mass and radius.
The planet known as K2-18b is 8 times the mass of Earth and 2.3 times larger. The size and density of the planet and its location near its star could indicate that the planet is a gaseous rocky planet, or a an icy ocean planet.
“K2-18b could well be a scaled-up version of Earth.”
The system as noted as one of the best for further study in the paper, due to the fact that this red dwarf is the second brightest star with a known transiting planet. The first, is LHS 1140b
“Because of the brightness of its host star and the low bulk density of K2-18b, the system offers a unique opportunity to study super-Earth atmospheres receiving Earth-like insolation in the JWST-era,”
But, we’ll need more data to verify the find. The planet was first discovered in 2015, and the inferences about it characteristics were published in July of 2017.
In a statement made by the study’s lead author Ryan Cloutier, the need for more detailed analyses is discussed. Specifically with regard to using the James Webb Space Telescope:
“With the current data, we can’t distinguish between those two possibilities. But with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) we can probe the atmosphere and see whether it has an extensive atmosphere or it’s a planet covered in water.