A new class of exoplanets has been identified

Astronomer Niko Madhusudan and colleagues at the University of Cambridge explain that these hot planets are covered in oceans and have hydrogen-rich atmospheres.

these hyceanic realms (massive planetsAnd in English) are similar to other exoplanets such as Super Earth and the mini neptuneIt can be up to 2.6 times the size of Earth. Its atmosphere reaches a temperature of nearly 200 degrees Celsius, but its oceans, like those on Earth, can be conducive to microbial life.

An artistic representation of the exoplanet K2-18b, discovered by researchers at the Exoplanet Research Institute in 2016. It belongs to a new class of exoplanets.

Photo: UdM / ALex Boersma

Such planets not in our solar system would be too many in our Milky Way.

Un grand numbre de ces planètes sont plus grandes et plus chaudes que la Terre, mais présentent néanmoins les caractéristiques nécessaires pour accueillir de grands océans susceptibles d’abriter une vie certain microbienne similaire plus envit a celle que des quat renês exes in EarthThe researchers explained in a press release published by the university.


  • At least 4,512 exoplanets have been officially discovered in more than 3,344 planetary systems.
  • Currently, more than 7,696 additional exoplanets are awaiting confirmation.

The vast majority of the exoplanets discovered during the past 30 years are between the size of Earth and the size of Neptune. They can be rocky or icy giants with a hydrogen-rich atmosphere, or an intermediate planet.

Most tiny Neptunes are 1.6 times the size of Earth: they are smaller than Neptune, but too large to have a rocky interior like Earth.

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If the work carried out so far showed that the pressure and temperature under the hydrogen-rich atmosphere would be too high to support life, the work of the British team dedicated to the Neptune K2-18b mini-rocket indicates that under certain conditions, these planets could harbor life.

These results led the researchers to conduct a detailed study of all the planetary and stellar properties for which these conditions are met, and the known exoplanets where it may be possible to observe the vital fingerprints of the presence of life.

It was this investigative work that enabled British astronomers to identify this new class of planets. Among these exoplanets, we also find the ocean worlds which are ruled by the tides and which can present conditions for life only on their perpetual nocturnal face, the ocean worlds. the cold which receives little radiation from its star.

Planets of this size dominate the known group of exoplanets, although they have not been studied in detail as the super-Earths., add astronomers.

Size alone is not enough to confirm whether the planet is a new type. Other aspects, such as mass, temperature, and atmospheric properties, are required to be confirmed.

The Cambridge team succeeded in identifying a sample of planets that fit the new category. They are prime candidates for detailed study using next-generation telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope (TSJW), which will be launched in November.

All of these planets orbit red dwarf stars located at a distance of between 35 and 150 light-years. So it’s close by astronomical standards. JWST-planned observations of the most promising candidate, K2-18b, may lead to the discovery of one or more biomolecules.Researchers say.

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The discovery of the biometric fingerprint will change our understanding of life in the universeNiko Madhusudan added. We must remain open about where we can find life and what form this life will take, as nature continues to surprise us in often unimaginable ways.

Details of this work are published inAstrophysical Journal (A new window) (in English).

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