NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has potentially discovered the first signs of life beyond our solar system, on an exoplanet called K2-18b located 120 light-years away. The telescope tentatively detected dimethyl sulfide, a molecule that on Earth is only produced by living organisms, in the atmosphere of K2-18b.

Key Findings Hint at Potential Habitability

While promising, scientists emphasize the detection requires further validation with follow-up observations in the next year. Along with dimethyl sulfide, Webb also identified methane, carbon dioxide and a lack of ammonia in the exoplanet’s hydrogen-rich atmosphere. This molecular makeup bolsters the possibility that K2-18b could have a water ocean under its atmosphere, making it potentially habitable for life as we know it.

K2-18b orbits in the habitable zone of its host star K2-18, at just the right distance for liquid water to exist on a planet’s surface. The researchers say its size, between Earth and Neptune, makes it favorable for atmospheric study compared to smaller, rockier planets.

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Search for Life Beyond Our Solar System

This groundbreaking revelation underscores the importance of exploring diverse potentially habitable worlds in the ongoing search for extraterrestrial life. While rocky planets have been the traditional focus, larger ocean planets like K2-18b are prime candidates for harboring life.

As we continue to uncover the mysteries of exoplanets with new technology like Webb, scientists edge closer to answering the fundamental question – are we alone in the universe? For now, the jury is still out on K2-18b, but one thing is certain: the possibilities abound in the vast expanse of space.

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Carbon-based Molecules Found on ‘water world’ Exoplanet

The recent analysis of the exoplanet K2-18 b by Cambridge researchers using James Webb Telescope data has unveiled monumental discoveries. This ocean-covered ‘water world’ orbiting in the habitable zone hosts the first carbon-based molecules like methane and carbon dioxide ever detected in an exoplanet atmosphere. Intriguingly, the data also tentatively indicates the presence of dimethyl sulfide, a molecule only produced by living organisms on Earth. While needing further confirmation, this potential biosignature compounds the possibility that microbial life may inhabit the hidden seas of K2-18 b. As one of the most favorable targets for habitability, this Hycean planet highlights that ocean worlds could offer our best opportunity yet for discovering extraterrestrial life beyond our Solar System.


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