Little-known rocky exoplanet is a 'scaled-up Earth'.

Ryan Cloutier a U of T PhD researcher discovered the Earth-like conditions of K2-18b and a new exoplanet nearby

While K2-18b and its newly discovered super-Earth nextdoor, K2-18c, are both roughly the same mass as Earth, their similarites may end there.

The faraway exoplanet, which is known as K2-18b, could be a scaled-up version of Earth.

However, according to a recent study, a little-known planet approximately 111 light-years away could perhaps be the first real testament to intelligent life beyond our tiny ball of blue and green.

"If you can get the mass and radius, you can measure the bulk density of the planet and that can tell you what the bulk of the planet is made of", study lead author Ryan Cloutier said. They found the planets circling the red dwarf star K2-18, which is part of the constellation, Leo.

Astronomers found that the potential life-supporting planet, which orbits the red-dwarf star K2-18, also has a neighbor planet called K2-18c, although it is probably too hot to be habitable. K2-18b, scientists say, could be in an excellent location for alien life to emerge-having ideal conditions for surface water, a fundamental ingredient for life, to exist. By measuring the radial velocities of stars, which can be influenced by the presence of planets around those stars, HARPS can allow for the detection of the planets around the stars.

The dataset used by Cloutier and other researchers came from the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) using the ESO's 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla Observatory, in Chile.

I'd just like to take this opportunity to give a friendly wave to potentially new pals over on K2-18b, in the hope that they will like us, and not want to death-ray us out of existence.

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Using sophisticated machine-learning techniques, the team figured out the planet could well be an Earth-like planet made mostly of rock and with a gaseous atmosphere. After figuring out the mass measurements of the planet, the team of researchers successfully established the fact that K2-18b is either largely a water planet with a thick ice-layer over it or it is essentially a rocky planet with a compact atmosphere full of gases, just like that of Earth, but larger in size.

"With the current data, we can not distinguish between those two possibilities", Cloutier said.

The James Webb Space Telescope, which will be launched in 2019, will be instrumental in collecting a range of data for studying the solar system, early universe and exoplanets. "Once all the boxes were checked it sunk in that, wow, this actually is a planet", said Ryan Cloutier, who had the target of finding at least one new exoplanet during the course of his Ph.D.

Engineers inspect the James Webb Space Telescope after cryogenic testing in Houston, November 19, 2017.

René Doyon, the paper co-author, feels that there is a high demand to use JWST so one has to be careful while selecting which exoplanets to study.

"When we first threw the data on the table we were trying to figure out what it was".

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