Recently, using atmospheric data from 19 worlds, scientists have found that there’s less water out there than we thought.
Many exoplanets that astronomers have discovered and studied so far have water, but less of it than predicted.
The researchers studied data from the atmospheres of 19 exoplanets gathered by space and ground-based telescopes. These planets ranged from mini-Neptunes that are over ten times Earth’s mass to super-Jupiters more than 600 times Earth’s mass. The worlds range in temperature from 20 degrees Celsius (about 70 degrees Fahrenheit) to over 2,000 degrees Celsius (3,600 F).
They found 14 of the 19 worlds had an abundance of water vapor, as well as an abundance of sodium and potassium.
The amounts of sodium and potassium, seen in the exoplanets, were consistent with what was expected. However, water vapor levels were significantly lower than predicted.
This suggests that there is a depletion of oxygen relative to the other elements and that the planets may have evolved with little accretion of ice.
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We already know that wherever there is water on Earth, there is life. So, discovering that there is less water in other planetary systems than expected might suggest that chances of life as we know it elsewhere in the universe are lower as well.
The new findings may teach us more about how planets form, including those in our own solar system.
The scientists detailed their findings online Dec. 11 in the journal The Astrophysical Journal Letters.