Study Shows There Are Many ‘Water Worlds’ Outside Our Solar System


A study which analyzed data from the Kepler Space Telescope and the Gaia mission shows that there are many exoplanets bigger than Earth that have a vast amount of water. This discovery is significant in the search for alien life.

Some of the planets contain 50% water, which is more than the content of water on Earth – 0.02%!

“It was a huge surprise to realise that there must be so many water-worlds,” said Li Zeng (Harvard University, US).

The team of scientists discovered that a lot of exoplanets from the 4,000 discovered so far have a radius either 1.5 times that of the Earth or 2.5 times.

The data and mass measurement and information from the Gaia satellite helped scientists develop models of the internal structures of the exoplanets, explains Zeng:

“We have looked at how mass relates to the radius and developed a model which might explain the relationship.”

That’s a Hot Water World

The model showed that the planets x1.5 bigger than the Earth’s radius are rockier, while the ones with an x2.5 Earth radius are water worlds:

“This is water, but not as commonly found here on Earth. Their surface temperature is expected to be in the 200 to 500 degree Celsius range. Their surface may be shrouded in a water – vapour – dominated atmosphere, with a liquid water layer underneath.”

According to the data, 35% of the known exoplanets are water worlds and might have had a similar formation as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

Sara Seager, who is a professor at MIT, added that this discovery is a step forward in finding out more about the world outside our solar system:

“It’s amazing to think that the enigmatic intermediate-size exoplanets could be water worlds with vast amounts of water. Hopefully, atmosphere observations in the future — of thick steam atmospheres — can support or refute the new findings.”


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