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A ce jour, la NASA estime qu'il existerait plus de 300 millions de planètes potentiellement habitables.

A new class of exoplanets called “hycean” is born

The number of planets that could harbor extraterrestrial life continues to increase. Researchers at the University of Cambridge recently identified a new type of outer planets Or planets outside the solar system. They describe them as “hycean” (“hycean” in English, or a contraction of “hydrogen” and “ocean”). These exoplanets are covered by the ocean and have a hydrogen-rich atmosphere with a high level of water vapor. Its mass is sometimes equivalent to ten times the mass of the Earth.

Like most of the exoplanets discovered so far, the “Hycean” planets are larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. They have average air temperatures close to 200 degrees. The researchers also claimed that the atmosphere contained less methane and ammonia than would be expected for this type of planet.

At a minimum, microbial life can exist.

A small downside: with a surface consisting of more than 90% water, these planets can a priori ingest only some form of aquatic life. Thanks to Spatial Telescope James Webb , “We will be able, over the next two or three years, to identify signs bio signature “And whether these planets could harbor life,” said Niko Madhusudan, lead author of the study published in The Astrophysical Journal. The researcher specifies that “at least, microbial life can exist” before adding that “life on Earth began in the same way.”

Professor Beth Beller, who studies exoplanets closely at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Astronomy, welcomes the breakthrough: “There is such diversity among exoplanets discovered so far, and it is also interesting to study non-terrestrial planets that could host life.”

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The study of exoplanets will be greatly improved

Just like the operation of the James Webb Space Telescope, the improvement of technical means offers optimistic prospects for the study of exoplanets. At the beginning of 2021, astronomer Jan Schneider, co-discoverer of the transit method and founder of Encyclopedia of extrasolar planets “I am pleased to commission the next generation telescopes, which will make us make giant leaps in the study of exoplanets.”