K2-3d sounds more like a Star Wars droid than an exoplanet but scientists are getting pretty excited about the discovery of this planet as it potentially has a warm climate and all the necessary conditions to support life.
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Exoplanet discoveries are fairly commonplace these days but the vast majority of the planets found are not usually suitable for life in any shape to exist. They are usually too far from their star, too close, or have some other wild characteristic that means life as we know it would never have evolved. Recently though, Kepler’s K2 mission located a potential planet around 150 light-years away that could well be home to alien life. The planet is around 1.5 times bigger than our own and a year on the planet would take around 45 days.
Japanese scientists who’ve taken a great interest in the planet have signaled that conditions could be pretty similar to what we have here. If that is the case, then there is no reason why K2-3d shouldn’t be teeming with life. They say that K2-3d has a tolerable temperature and water, which should be enough for life. These are, admittedly, speculations at the moment as we have not been able to confirm anything about the exoplanet. Some theories about K2-3d could be confirmed in the New Year so we should keep an eye on this one.
NASA is aiming to use the hardware at their disposal, namely Hubble, and eventually the James Webb Space Telescope, to take a better look at the potential discovery. They would be looking for characteristics that would indicate life could exist on the planet’s surface. These characteristics include the presence of clouds and a hydrogenic atmosphere.
“NASA is aiming for a more in-depth examination of the likely planet. They hope to find a hydrogen-rich atmosphere, or a blanket of clouds. If we found any signal, then we would hit K2-3d extremely hard with James Webb Space Telescope.” Dr Björn Benneke – California Institute of Technology.
We probably shouldnt get too excited. These discoveries have been made before and tuned out to be against us in the hunt for life. We still do not know if the planet is tidal-locked, meaning the planet may permanently face it’s star on one side, meaning one half would be scorched and the other half frozen. There is a line on a tidally-locked planet where the temperature might be in the right region, however this is all speculation at this stage.
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