NASA Finds Water on Alien Planets

NASA Alien Exoplanet

What a “hot-Jupiter-like” exoplanet may look like. NASA recently discover water in the atmosphere of five such exoplanets.

NASA’s Hubble telescope’s most recent find is the existence of water on 5 alien orbs. The exoplanets were discovered to contain water using infrared light waves. The scientists observed the signature of water in a range of specified wavelengths. This signature would not be present if the alien worlds did not contain the life-giving substance. The new finding was made using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. This camera is a high-performance camera has capabilities of being one of the few cameras to be able to look into the exoplanet atmospheres which are located trillions of miles from Earth.

Pic of the Hubble Telescope

NASA’s Hubble Telescop

NASA’s observers also compared the absorption profiles and intensities of the infrared light wavelengths as well as their shapes. What gave the scientists the confidence in their findings was the consistency of the water signatures on these alien planets. NASA has previous findings of the presence of atmospheric water on exoplanets or planets beyond the solar system, but they’ve never collectively compared them to each other nor have they measured the water profile intensities.

The author of the previously reported studies was the University of Maryland’s, Drake Fleming. Fleming stated that the detection of an exoplanet atmosphere is an extremely difficult task, but the signals recorded were very clearly pronounced to actually be water.

A co-author of Deming’s paper, Heather Knutson, is from Pasadena’s California Institute of Technology. Knutson gave a recent statement saying that the evidence suggested a hazy or cloudy atmosphere may be a very common phenomenon that is shared by the “hot Jupiter” type of exoplanets. Knutson also stated that the recent studies can be combined with other prior Hubble observations to suggest there are a surprising number of systems in which the water signals are either completely absent or extremely narrow.

A NASA planetary scientist, Avi Mandell, from the Goddard Space Flight Center is the lead author of a paper entitled, The Astrophysical Journal. Mandell also confirmed the findings of water in the exoplanet’s atmosphere. The scientist thinks that the latest finding opens the door to scientists to compare hotter and cooler exoplanets and to compare exactly how much water is present in each type.

Two research teams were confident enough to be surprised the signatures they observed were all equally less pronounced than they initially expected. NASA feels the reason for the signature’s haziness was that the planets actually contained a coating of dust in or around their atmospheres. The dust reduces the color or intensity in the planet’s water signatures exactly the same as if viewing objects through a bank of fog on Earth. NASA confirmed that other important molecules, as well as the haze, will alter the signal observations in a distinctive way.

The five alien planets discovered to contain water in their atmospheres are being compared to five “hot Jupiters.” The planets are known as; WASP-12b, WASP-17b, WASP-19b, XO-1b, and HD209458b. When all five were compared to each other it was HD209458b and WASP-17b that stood-out to contain the largest and strongest water signals.

NASA’s recent find doesn’t suggest that alien life exists on these specific planets. Even though atmospheric water was found, it is unlikely to survive on these very hot Jupiter-like worlds. This still remains as a positive advancement for the human race and the quest to find the existence of alien life forms.

By Brent Matsalla

NBC News

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