Image courtesy: Space.com

Astronomers have discovered for the first time the presence of water in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting within the habitable zone of a distant star.

The findings were published in a scientific journal Nature Astronomy.

The planet which is called K2-18b, according to the findings in the journal may be ‘a plausible candidate in the search for alien life’.

Within 10 years, new space telescopes might be able to determine whether K2-18b’s atmosphere contains gases that could be produced by living organisms, the journal had stated.

According to the journal, the lead scientist, Prof Giovanna Tinetti of University College London (UCL) described the discovery as ‘mind blowing’.

“This is the first time that we have detected water on a planet in the habitable zone around a star where the temperature is potentially compatible with the presence of life,” she was quoted as saying in a BBC News report.

The habitable zone is the region around a star where temperatures are sufficiently benign for water to exist in liquid form on the surface of a planet.

K2-18b is 111 light-years – about 650 million million miles – from Earth.

This is too far a distance to send anything to probe.

So the only option is to wait for the next generation of space telescopes to be launched in the 2020s and to look for gasses in the planet’s atmosphere that could only be produced by living organisms, the report in BBC News had stated quoting UCL’s Dr Ingo Waldmann.

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