Exoplanets

Water vapor detected in the atmosphere of a super-Earth

Artist's illustration of a planet 110 light-years from Earth.
Artist's illustration of K2-18b. Credit: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser

Scientists have found water vapor in the atmosphere of a world about 8 times the mass of Earth.

Why it matters: While this isn't the "Earth 2.0" scientists have been hoping to find, the discovery does mark another step along the path toward finding a truly habitable world beyond our own.

Newly uncovered super-Earth 31 light-years away may be habitable

An image of  the discovery of three planets around a star known as GJ 35.
An illustration of the 3 planets around a star known as GJ 357. Photo: NASA

NASA announced Wednesday that its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has uncovered a potentially habitable planet just 31 light-years away from our solar system.

Why it matters: TESS member and associate professor of astronomy Lisa Kaltenegger, who led the international team and who is also director of Cornell's Carl Sagan Institute, said in a statement the discovery of the exoplanet, named GJ 357 d, "is humanity's first nearby super-Earth that could harbor life."