Water Vapor Discovered on Nearby Alien Planet

Tau Bootis B

Have you ever heard of the exoplanet, Tau Boötis b?  Well, it was discovered back in 1996 and is one of the closest exoplanets to us.   Tau Boötis b is about 51-light-years away and is considered to be a “hot Jupiter” because it is a gas giant orbiting close to its parent star.  Now, with the advances in techniques used to scan planetary atmospheres, something else has been discovered about  Tau Boötis b:  the fact that it has water vapor.

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How many habitable planets?

Looking at the latest analysis of the data from the Kepler Spacecraft the number of habitable planets are potentially now one in five. 

Habitable zones are neither too hot nor too cold

Analysis by UC Berkeley and University of Hawaii astronomers shows that one in five sun-like stars are potentially habitable.

“When you look up at the thousands of stars in the night sky, the nearest sun-like star with an Earth-size planet in its habitable zone is probably only 12 light years away and can be seen with the naked eye. That is amazing,” said UC Berkeley graduate student Erik Petigura, who led the analysis of the Kepler data.

When the  James Webb Space Telescope is launched, hopefully in 2018, it should be able to look at these habitable plants and see in even more detail the surface of the planets. One of the four James Webb science themes is Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life.

It’s just a matter if time until we discover that first other ‘Blue Marble.’