• K2-18B is an exoplanet bigger than Earth
  • K2-18B was believed to have inhospitable conditions
  • A new study revealed that K2-18B could be habitable

A new study revealed that a previously discovered exoplanet could actually be habitable and may have the right conditions to support alien life. The authors of the study came to this conclusion after creating a computer model to analyze the alien world’s atmospheric conditions.

The study, which was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, focused on an exoplanet known as K2-18B. It is regarded as a super-Earth because it’s about eight times the mass of Earth.

The exoplanet was first discovered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. It is located about 124 light-years from Earth and orbits a red dwarf star known as K2-18. Initial observations revealed that K2-18B orbits within the habitable zone of its host star, which means it could have ideal conditions to support life.

However, after conducting follow-up studies, scientists noted that K2-18B could actually be a smaller version of Neptune. Like the eighth planet from the Sun, scientists believe that K2-18B might have a deep hydrogen atmosphere and no solid surface. This means that the exoplanet could be too hostile for life to thrive in.

In a new study, a team of researchers learned that previous findings regarding K2-18B might be inaccurate. They noted that the exoplanet might actually be habitable. They made their discovery after creating a computer model of the exoplanet using its biosignatures, such as its mass, radius and other data related to its atmosphere, Earth Sky reported.

Through their computer model, the scientists learned that K2-18B’s hydrogen atmosphere might not be too thick. Also, even though the exoplanet might not have solid surfaces, the conditions in its water layers could be similar to the oceans on Earth.

As noted by the scientists, observing an exoplanet’s proximity from its host star or determining its exterior appearance are not the only ways to study the possible habitability of an alien world. Their study proves that analyzing the biosignature of an exoplanet is a more accurate way of determining its habitability.

“We argue that planets such as K2-18b can indeed have the potential to approach habitable conditions and searches for biosignatures should not necessarily be restricted to smaller rocky planets,” they stated in their study.

Scientists have discovered that a new medium-sized planet is vanishing at a faster rate than others. Pictured: A hand out image made available by the European Southern Observatory on August 24 2016, shows an artist's impression of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System. Getty Images/M. Kornmesser