The two planets are far from water, according to research done by NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer telescopes.
The so-called “water world” is a red dwarf star, the smallest and coolest type of star, according to a news release from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The water planets are 218 light years from the star Lyra, says NASA. And “unlike all the planets in our solar world,” he said propulsively.
The discovery of planets likely composed more of water comes from research published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Thursday. A research team led by Caroline Piaulet, a PhD student at the University of Montreal’s Institute for Research on Exoplanets, used NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to observe the distant planetary system.
The planetary system they studied is called Kepler-138, which is located in the field of vision of NASA’s Kepler space probe. Researchers have learned of the existence of three exoplanets – the term for planets outside our solar system – within the Kepler-138 system, but only two of those discovered are likely to be made of water.
There is also evidence of a fourth planet not previously described.
But the discovery is not as simple as it seems. Scientists have not directly detected water on the exoplanets Kepler-138c and Kepler-138d. but compared the sizes and masses of the planets to the examples of comparison.
When they compared the planets to the models, “they found that a significant part of their volume was up to half of it – made of lighter rock materials, but heavier hydrogen or helium.”
Water is a likely candidate material that is lighter than rock, but heavier than hydrogen or helium, says NASA.
Previously, we thought that planets somewhat larger than Earth were large balls of metal and rock, like scale versions of Earth, and so we called them super-Earths, Björn Benneke, co-author of the study and professor of astrophysics at the University of Montreal, said in a release. “But we have shown that these two planets, Kepler-138c and d, are very different in nature, and that a large part of their total volume is probably composed of water.”
“It is the best evidence yet for water worlds, a type of planet that has long been speculated to exist by astrologers,” Benneke continued.
The high temperatures on these planets mean that they are surrounded by a vapor atmosphere, according to NASA.
The temperature in Kepler-138d’s atmosphere is likely above the boiling point of water, and we expect a thick, vapor-dense atmosphere to form on this planet, Piaulet said in the release. “Only under that vapor atmosphere could potentially be liquid water at high pressure, or even water in another phase that occurs at high pressures, called a supercritical fluid.”
“water worlds” are outside their star’s habitable zone – the area where temperatures allow liquid water to form on the surface of rocky planets, potentially supporting life. But the new planet described by Kepler 138-e researchers falls into that zone just after the release.
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