June 24, 2024

Earth-Like Planets Suddenly More Likely After Webb Telescope Discovery

Water has been detected around a young star about 400 light-years from the solar system that was revealed last week to have a “double planet”. It could mean that rocky planets develop throughout the galaxy with water on their surfaces — a key ingredient for sustaining life.

Observations from the James Webb Space Telescope found the water in the planet-forming disk of a star called PDS 70 – exactly in the same region where rocky planets orbit the sun in our solar system.

The water is in the form of hot steam around 625Fº/330ºC.

It is an important discovery because it suggests that rocky planets in general – including Earth – could have evolved with water on their surface.

MORE FROM FORBES‘Double Planet’ Could Exist 400 Light Years From Earth, Scientists Say

That’s a big change from the received wisdom that water must have gotten to Earth (and rocky inner planets in any star system) through the impacts of thousands of icy asteroids and comets from the periphery.

PDS 70 is thought to host two Jupiter-sized planets sharing the same orbit – a first ever observed. However, they orbited far from the region where water was found.

This makes PDS 70—located in the southern hemisphere constellation Centaurus—a very special star system that could change the way astronomers think about how rocky planets form and evolve.

Water Birth

“We may now have evidence that water could be one of the initial ingredients of the rocky planets and that it would have been available at birth,” said Giulia Perotti, lead paper author published today i nature and astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg, Germany.

​​​​The researchers found water in the inner disk of PDS 70, which “suggests that potential terrestrial planets there have access to a reservoir of water,” the paper reads. They think that water is formed in this region rather than transported in from the outer reaches of the star system.

extremely Exciting

“This discovery is extremely exciting, as it explores the region where rocky Earth-like planets typically form,” said Thomas Henning, Director of the MPIA and Co-Principal Investigator of the MINDS (MIRI Mid-Infrared Disk Survey), which uses JWST’s. Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI).

It was thought that water that naturally forms around a star cannot heat up, leading to rocky planets that are naturally dry. If that is now ruled out as a basic rule, rocky planets with water could exist throughout our Milky Way galaxy.

The researchers hope that the MINDS project will show whether water is common in terrestrial planet-forming zones of evolved disks around young stars – or whether PDS 70 is a one-off.

Do you wish a clear sky and wide eyes.

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