Pair of super-Earths found orbiting star K2-18

The new study also found that K2-18b has a neighbour which has been named K2-18c. The data used by the researchers came from the ESO's 3.6-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile

The new study also found that K2-18b has a neighbour which has been named K2-18c. The data used by the researchers came from the ESO's 3.6-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile

In the process, they discovered that the planet also has a massive neighbor.

In a significant breakthrough in man's relentless search for life beyond Earth, a new research claims to have found a planet that could host alien life.

Cloutier collaborated with an worldwide team of researchers, including his supervisor U of T Scarborough Associate Professor Kristen Menou, and from the Observatoire Astronomique de l'Université de Genève, the Institute for research on exoplanets (iREx), Université de Grenoble and Universidade do Porto.

K2-18b even has a neighbouring sister planet, the cleverly named K2-18c, but is unlikely to host life because it is slightly closer to its Sun.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Texas, Scarborough, and University of Montreal, Canada, using data from the European Southern Observatory (ESO), has found K2-18b orbiting at a habitable distance from its star, making the presence of water on the planet.

Astronomers have discovered not one but two super-Earths surrounding the star K2-18, a red-dwarf located 111 light-years from Earth. The data that painted a more vivid picture of the planet was gathered by the HARPS planet-finding tool at the La Silla Observatory located in Chile. Radial velocities can reveal slight wobbles caused by the pull of an exoplanet's gravity on its host star.

"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", Cloutier said. First discovered back in 2015, the planet is thought to lie within its star's habitable zone, and if it does indeed have a rocky core as scientists believe, it may well have liquid water on its surface.

The atmosphere of K2-18b will be probed further by NASA's James Webb Space telescope when it launches in 2019.

"With the current data, we can't distinguish between those two possibilities", he says.

"Once all the boxes were checked it sunk in that, wow, this actually is a planet", he said.

The second planet popped up when Cloutier noticed a different signal in the data than from K2-18b, which orbits its star every 33 days.

Study co-author Professor René Doyon, also from the University of Montreal, added: "There's a lot of demand to use this telescope, so you have to be meticulous in choosing which exoplanets to look at". According to study authors, the discovery sheds important light on the prevalence of multi-planet systems around dwarf stars like K2-18. "But whether or not there is surface water, we're going to have to do some follow up observations to figure that out for sure, because right now we just don't know". Since K2-18b is likely rocky, this means the planet could have liquid water on its surface, which is one of many conditions for supporting life.

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