Water (maybe) found on 5 alien planets


Who will win?! Derp!

When humans first got interested in space in the 1930s by way of German ballistic missiles, the result was a close race between our U.S.A. and Russia to see who the first one to space would be. Russia beat us to that soundly, but we won the race overall when we bested them and landed on the Moon. There hasn’t been a manned American mission to space in quite a while, mainly because the thrill of the space-shuttle blasting off got too mundane and people stopped caring about them.

America turned to studying space after that, out of curiosity and the hunger for something new and exciting. Supernovas, other galaxies, and alien planets are just a very small few of the things scientists have discovered. Alien planets are in a top list of things to be researched, as there is a chance one or more of them could be suitable for life.

Why might we want to live on another globe? Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Earth has a lot of problems—economic crises, natural disasters, wars and the like. It would be pretty cool to be able to start over. Imagine: a world much like Earth but without the problems humans cause. We could all have a second chance!

So, signs of water have been found on five alien exoplanets (planets that orbits stars in solar systems other than that of Earth) by the Hubble Telescope. How significant is that to astronomy today? An interview with Christine Hirst, West Ranch’s astronomy teacher sheds some insight on the matter:

“Well, new exoplanets are discovered all the time. Water is the foundation of any sort of habitable planet in order for there to be life, however it really depends on the form the water is in; if it’s in the atmosphere, trapped in water-ice, or in seasonal, recurring caps. To find out if life can exist on these planets really leads to the necessity of further study; just an indicator of the molecule of water is a really good sign, but it’s the first of many steps that would need to be taken.”

Thankfully, there isn’t much doubt that we’ve actually found water on these worlds:

“We’re very confident that we see a water signature for multiple planets,” Avi Mandell, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., lead author of one of the studies for the recently found exoplanets, said in a statement.

Yes, water is the first thing we look for to see if a planet may support life. The catch, though, is that these planets are all scorching hot and Jupiter-sized. Even if we could get past the tremendous heat and live there, the immense gravity would crush our bones.

The water was detected by two research teams, who used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 on the planets WASP-17b, HD209458b, WASP-12b, WASP-19b and XO-1b. The strongest hints of water were in the air of WASP-17b and HD209458b. While water has been found on several alien worlds already, this was the first time scientists have measured and compared profiles of the substance in detail across multiple alien worlds.

One of the five exoplanets, WASP-17b
One of the five exoplanets, WASP-17b