Methane, carbon dioxide and dimethyl sulfide were found by the James Webb Telescope on the exoplanet in the constellation Leo, 120 light-years from Earth.
This week NASA announced an important discovery James Webb Telescope on the exoplanet K2-18b. According to them, the investigation discovered carbon molecules such as methane and carbon dioxide.
K2-18b is located in Leo constellation, 120 light-years from Earth, orbits a red dwarf star. In 2019, this exoplanet gained attention after it was revealed that it might contain one significant amount of steam in its atmosphere.
But why are these things important? Both water and carbon are fundamental clues that life could exist in this place..
In any case, it is important to note that this is not necessarily “intelligent life.” These elements can contribute to the development of organic life in its most basic form, such as: single-celled creatures probably aquatic.
Let us remember that, according to the theory of evolution, the first life forms on Earth were oceanic microorganisms. Scientific estimates suggest that they have passed 1,000 million years from its origin to the first appearance of life. Other It took 3,000 million years for the first animals to emerge apparently small prehistoric jellyfish.
Why is planet K2-18b important?
The possible presence of life on K2-18b has been a great discovery ever since Earth is the only place in the universe where we have confirmed life. We started finding exoplanets (outside our solar system) in the 1990s, and there are now more than 5,000.
However, progress has been slow in monitoring these celestial bodies more closely. In this mission the James Webb plays a fundamental role as it will enable Capturing light from the atmosphere of exoplanets. This will help you find out what items are present.
In fact, he did this while he was in college K2-18b. This star had already been under NASA’s radar since 2019, when they discovered the possibility of water particles in its atmosphere.
Now the survey recorded particles of Methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). Both samples are fundamental because the emergence of life as we know it relies essentially on carbon, which is present in both compounds.
Likewise the presence of Dimethyl sulfide (CH3)2S. This chemical is only produced by living things, at least on Earth, and therefore also contributes to the possibility of life on the exoplanet. In fact, it comes mainly from phytoplankton, a group of organisms consisting mainly of underwater organisms with photosynthetic capacity.
However, the characteristics of this planet still need to be further studied as it falls into the classification “Sub-Neptune«, one of the most common body types in this galaxy. It’s important to understand this Atmosphere, pressure and temperature of this celestial body to see if it is possible for life to live there.
In any case, it is a major step forward in discovering possible environments suitable for life in the universe around us.