Scientists have discovered water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet that is about the size of Neptune and located 120 light-years away in the constellation of Cygnus.
HAT-P-11b (we’re gonna call it HAT) is classified as an Exo-Neptune because of its similar size to Neptune but its biggest difference is that it’s very close to its own sun. Rotating around the nearest star once every five days, HAT has a rocky core and a thick gaseous atmosphere.
Scientists had to use three different telescopes and a technique called transmission spectroscopy in order to determine the presence of water vapor. The process could only make a definitive determination at the moment the planet passed between the telescope and its parent star.
Because there aren’t thick clouds blocking their view of the planets surface, researchers will be able to gather a much more accurate idea of the planet’s makeup and history. This gives them hope for research on planets that are closer in character to Earth.
While none of this indicates anything close to an inhabitable planet, remember that we still know very little about the history of our universe. The Big Bang is as big a mystery to scientists as “where do babies come from” is to your four-year-old niece. (Image: ESA/Hubble Information Centre via the New Scientist)