Astrologers at the University of Cambridge conducted high-precision studies to find water on three distant planets. The search using the Hubble space telescope has “come up nearly dry.” Researchers said it clearly shows the hurdles in finding Earth-like planets rich in water. They studied atmospheres of three exoplanets revolving around stars similar to our Sun, expecting to discover “a lot of water.”
Scientists find little water on all three exoplanets
That surprised astronomers because the currently used models predicted that these exoplanets should have a lot of water vapor in their atmospheres. Nikku Madhusudhan of the Cambridge University’s Institute of Astronomy said that scientists need to revisit the planet formation and migration models. He also urged other astrologers looking for water on other exoplanets to lower their expectations.
One of the exoplanets, named HD 209458b, was studied for water with the highest-precision measurement ever carried out on exoplanets. The other two planets were WASP-12b and HD 189733b. All three planets had between one-tenth and one-thousandth of water estimated by the scientific theories. Madhusudhan said future telescopes will have to be designed with higher sensitivity to search for signs of water because the planets could be significantly dryer than predicted.
Are the existing planet formation theories reliable?
Madhusudhan said findings of the study have “opens a whole can of worms” in the currently accepted theories of planet formation. The existing theory states that giant planets are formed around young stars on a cosmic “disc,” which consists of dust particles, ice, hydrogen and helium. Dust particles then stick together to form larger grains which, in turn, are drawn by the disc’s gravitational forces. This forms the planet core, which continues to attract gas and solid matter until it takes the form of a gas giant. Scientists believed atmospheric oxygen on gas giants was in the form of water.