Two Super-Earths around red dwarf K2-18
Researchers find exciting potential for little-known exoplanet — and discover another planet in the process
The ESO 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla. Credit: Y. Beletsky (LCO)/ESO
New research using data collected by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has revealed that a little-known exoplanet called K2-18b could well be a scaled-up version of Earth.
Just as exciting, the same researchers also discovered for the first time that the planet has a neighbor.
“Being able to measure the mass and density of K2-18b was tremendous, but to discover a new exoplanet was lucky and equally exciting,” says lead author Ryan Cloutier, a PhD student in U of T Scarborough’s Centre for Planet Science, U of T’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and Université de Montréal Institute for research on exoplanets (iREx).
Both planets orbit K2-18, a red-dwarf star located about 111 light years away in the constellation Leo. When the planet K2-18b was first discovered in 2015, it was found to be orbiting within the star’s habitable zone, making it an ideal candidate to have liquid surface water, a key element in harbouring conditions for life as we know it.