Scientists have discovered a distant planet that may have an ocean on its surface

Scientists have discovered a distant planet that may have an ocean on its surface

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Researchers from the University of Cambridge using the James Webb Space Telescope have found the distant planet TOI-270 d, which is likely covered by a deep ocean.

Its radius is twice that of the Earth and it is located at a distance of 70 light years from our planet, writes The Guardian.

It is noted that the telescope detected water vapor, methane and carbon dioxide in the exoplanet’s atmosphere.

According to scientists, such a chemical mixture may indicate that its surface is probably completely covered by the ocean. But this does not mean that you can see a picturesque seascape there.

“The temperature of the water can reach over 100°C. Even with high atmospheric pressure, the ocean can remain liquid, but it is not known whether it is suitable for life,” – explained scientist Nikku Madhusudhan, who led the study.

This hypothesis became the cause of controversy in the scientific world. Yes, in the article, published in the scientific journal Astronomy and Astrophysics Letters, supports her saying that it is quite possible.

However, a team of Canadian astronomers who also studied this exoplanet deny this is a guess. They claim that the temperature of TOI-270 d can reach 4000°C, which is too much for water to be stored in a liquid state.

Also, in their opinion, the planet has a rocky surface, where there is no ocean. Its atmosphere has a dense structure and consists of hydrogen and water vapor.

So far, it is difficult to establish which of the hypotheses is correct. Nevertheless, such studies demonstrate the telescope’s ability to study exoplanets and understand the nature of their surfaces.

The James Webb telescope captures starlight filtered through planetary atmospheres and provides a detailed analysis of the chemical elements present there. Based on this, astronomers can make assumptions about whether there is life there.

Evidence for an ocean on TOI-270 d is based on the absence of ammonia, which should occur naturally in the hydrogen-rich atmosphere. But ammonia dissolves well in water, so its reserves in the atmosphere would be depleted if there were an ocean below.

“One hypothesis is that an ocean of water could exist under a hydrogen-rich atmosphere,” – suggested Madhusudhan.

In addition, scientists emphasized, that the conditions there will differ from those on Earth. TOI-270 d is a tidal planet: one side of it is constantly facing its star, and the other is immersed in eternal darkness, which creates an extreme temperature contrast.

“The ocean could be very hot during the day. There could potentially be life on the side where there is no light.

But there will be a destructive atmosphere with a pressure that is hundreds of times higher than that on the Earth’s surface. Steam will rise from the ocean. The waters probably reach a depth of tens to hundreds of kilometers, with an icy bottom under high pressure, and a rocky core underneath.” told Nikku Madhusudhan.

Jo Barstow, an astronomer at the Open University who was not involved in the research, believes more observations are needed. They will help to determine the amount of water vapor and thus it will be possible to clarify whether there really is an ocean there.

We will recall the James Webb telescope took a picture the smallest “loser star”.



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