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Business News/ News / World/  Life beyond Earth? NASA finds tentative evidence of life on K2-18 b with oceanic body

NASA has unveiled tentative evidence of life on a distant planet, as they report the potential presence of an oceanic body. Scientists have astounded the world with their groundbreaking revelation of an expansive water ocean on an enormous exoplanet situated many light years away from our home planet.

The James Webb Space Telescope, courtesy of NASA, has probed the enigmatic K2-18 b, a colossal exoplanet dwarfing Earth by 8.6 times in mass. The investigation has unveiled the existence of carbon-rich compounds, such as methane and carbon dioxide.

This discovery augments recent research, suggesting K2-18 b's classification as a Hycean exoplanet, characterised by the prospect of hosting a hydrogen-rich atmosphere and a surface veiled in oceanic waters.

K2-18 b resides comfortably within the habitable zone of a cool dwarf star, denominated K2-18, nestled approximately 120 light-years away in the Leo constellation. These exoplanets, spanning the size spectrum between Earth and Neptune, inhabit uncharted territories outside our solar system, eliciting ongoing scientific inquiry into their unique attributes.

Also Read: NASA shares new images of ISRO's Chandrayaan-3

NASA's press release mentioned, "The prevalence of methane and carbon dioxide, combined with the absence of ammonia, bolsters the theory of an underwater world enveloped by a hydrogen-rich atmosphere on K2-18 b. The initial observations from Webb also hint at the potential detection of dimethyl sulphide (DMS), a molecule exclusively generated by life on Earth, predominantly emitted by phytoplankton in marine settings."

Nikku Madhusudhan, a prominent astronomer from the University of Cambridge and the study's principal author, commented, "Our findings underscore the significance of exploring diverse habitable environments in the quest for extraterrestrial life. Historically, the search for life beyond our planet has fixated on diminutive rocky worlds, but the larger Hycean domains offer substantially more favourable conditions for atmospheric scrutiny."

The exoplanet K2-18 b initially came to our attention in 2015, courtesy of NASA's K2 mission. However, thanks to the advanced capabilities of the James Webb Space Telescope, scientists have recently enjoyed the opportunity to conduct an in-depth exploration of this exoplanet, which revolves around a star lying beyond the precincts of our solar system.

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Updated: 21 Sep 2023, 02:09 PM IST
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