Researchers announced Wednesday that they've found the best evidence yet of water outside our own solar system, in the atmosphere of a giant planet 60 light years away from us.
riting in the scientific journal Nature, researchers said the planet itself, HD 189733b, was unlikely to harbor life but evidence supported the search for life in other solar systems.
"We're thrilled to have identified clear signs of water on a planet that is trillions of miles away," Giovanna Tinetti, a European Space Agency fellow at the Institute d'Astrophysique de Paris in France who led the study, was quoted as saying in an accompanying news release.
A light year is the distance a beam of light travels in one year at 186,000 miles per second (300,000 km per second), or close to 6 trillion miles.
The Earth's moon is only 1.3 light seconds from our planet.
"Although HD 189733b is far from being habitable, and actually provides a rather hostile environment, our discovery shows that water might be more common out there than previously thought, and our method can be used in the future to study more 'life-friendly' environments," Tinetti said.
Investigations showed the planet, which orbits a star in the constellation of Vulpecula (the Fox), appeared larger at wavelength bands that corresponded to water, suggesting the substance was present in the atmosphere.