There is still a pretty big mystery regarding how life began on Earth, whether we admit it or not – some scientists are betting on the ‘primordial soup’ theory, others on panspermia, but nobody knows for sure how to create life. It’s so complex that nobody could ever create it in a laboratory. One thing’s for sure, though: life as we know it cannot exist without liquid water.
A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge analyzed data belonging from 19 exoplanets in a study called “Mass-Metallicity Trends in Transiting Exoplanets from Atmospheric Abundances of H2O, Na, and K.,”. They found water vapor on 14 of those planets, which leads to the conclusion that water is more widespread on exoplanets than we initially thought.
Potassium and sodium also found
The scientists also found huge amounts of potassium and sodium on six other exoplanets, along with other chemicals.
Project leader Nikku Madhusudhan stated:
We are seeing the first signs of chemical patterns in extra-terrestrial worlds, and we’re seeing just how diverse they can be in terms of their chemical compositions,
Big variety of planets analyzed
Among the planets included in the study, there have been what is called as “mini-Neptunes” (about 10 times more massive than Earth), and also “super-Jupiters” (about 600 times more massive than our planet).
Madhusudhan also added:
It is incredible to see such low water abundances in the atmospheres of a broad range of planets orbiting a variety of stars,”
Obviously, the next big step should be to actually find out if those “super-Jupiters” and “mini-Neptunes” are actually harboring any kind of life forms. There is certainly a long road since humanity for the moment doesn’t have the technology to either travel to those planets and neither to zoom enough with the telescopes in order to see if there’s anything dwelling on those cosmic objects.
The study has been published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.