Recently Astronomers have discovered a planet which has water vapor in its atmosphere. The planet is situated 124 light years from the Earth. It is the first planet of the size of Neptune which harbors water vapor in its atmosphere, which has been discovered outside our solar system.
The answer to the question –are we alone in this universe seemed to enthrall astronomers and in spite of skepticisms and inherent risks involved, mankind continues to seek answers. Numerous planets are being discovered, which scientists feel have conditions favorable for life. Most planets are being discovered in the region known as Goldilocks region where conditions are favorable to sustain life.
The planet which is denoted by HAT-P-11b orbits a star which is 124 light years away from the earth. The planet is 4 times the size of Earth and was discovered in the constellation Cyngus in January 2009. Astronomers are using a latest technique known as transit method in which exoplanets are observed and studied chiefly through light they absorb as they pass in front of their local star. The planetary image is affected by the light output of the star behind it as it transits allowing astronomers to calculate the planets mass notwithstanding the fact that the planet is not visible with a telescope.
Astronomers have used this method to determine the composition of the atmosphere of the exoplanet and discovered that it contained water vapor.
The astronomer team is composed a number of astronomers from United Kingdom, Chile, Maryland, as well as California, Seattle and Switzerland and published their findings in the Journal Nature on Wednesday.
The astronomers used data from the Hubble Space Telescope, Kepler spacecraft and Spitzer Telescope. The process known as transmission spectroscopy can be attempted only when the planet passes in front of a star and lets astronomers investigate the chemical composition of an exoplanet’s atmosphere as sunlight is absorbed by present atoms and molecules. It is for the first time that water vapor has been detected in the atmosphere of a planet of this size. Usually water vapor is found in the atmosphere of Jupiter sized planets.