Water worlds may be common in the Universe

Extrasolar planets with lots of water may be much more common than previously thought, scientists say. Researchers have shown that water can be a major component of exoplanets that are two to four times the size of Earth.

The discovery presented at the Goldschmidt Conference in Boston has important implications for the search for extraterrestrial life. It suggests that there are many Earth-like planets throughout the galaxy, on which theorych water is an essential element.

Ever since the first extrasolar planets were discovered, scientists have wondered what their composition was. They primarily wanted to determine whether they were suitable for the development of life, at least as we know it. New analysis of data from the Kepler Space Telescope and the Gaia mission indicates that many known exoplanets may contain as much as 50 percent water. It is much more than 0.02 percent. Earth’s water content.

The more than 4,000 discovered confirmed exoplanets or extrasolar candidates are divided into two groups in terms of sizeow. One is planets with a radius of about 1.5 Earth radii, and the other is planets, whichore have a radius of about 2.5 times that of our planet’s. Now an international group of scientistsow, after analyzing exoplanets with measured mass and taken radiation measurements based on data from the Gaia mission, has developed a model of their internal structure.

– We looked at how mass relates to radius and developed a model thatory mowould explain this relationship – said study leader Li Zeng of Harvard University. – Our model indicates that these exoplanets, whichore have a radius of about 1.5 Earth radii, appear to be rocky planets. These planets typically have a mass five times that of Earth. Planet with a radius of 2.5 Earth’s radius and with masses typically around 10 Earth masses, are likely to be water worlds – explained Li Zeng.

– This is water, but not the kind we’d encounter on Earth. The surface temperature of these exoplanets can reach 200-500 st. Celsius. They can be shielded by an atmosphere dominated by water vapor, with a layer of liquid water underneath. Going deeper, this water can be expected to turn into lod of high pressure before reaching a rock solid core. The beauty of this model is that it explains how theob composition ties in with known facts about these planets – noted Li Zeng.

Previous studies have shown that many sposrod more than 4,000 confirmed or potential extrasolar planets fit into one of the twooch sizeow: these, ktore are about 1.5 times the radius of Earth, and those thatore about 2.5 times larger than our planet.

– Our data shows that about 35 percent of. All known extrasolar planets, whichore larger than Earth should be rich in water. These aquatic worlds probably formed in a similar wayob to the giant gas planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, ktore we find in our own Solar System. The newly launched TESS mission will find even more similar planets. The next-generation telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, will perhaps characterize the atmosphere of someorych of them. It’s an exciting time for osob interested in these distant worlds – emphasized Li Zeng.

– It’s amazing that enigmatic medium-sized exoplanets can be worlds with lots of water. Hopefully, future observations of the atmosphere can confirm or refute these findings – said Professor Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whoora serves as deputy scientific director of the recent TESS mission.