Studying Exoplanets’ Core Can Help Scientists Determine If They Are Habitable

Super-Earths are planets similar to ours, having a rocky structure. These planets are surprisingly numerous in our galaxy, and scientists consider them the most likely to be habitable, but we don’t have a clear view of them yet. One way to enrich our knowledge about super-Earths is by studying their interior structures in order to predict if they have the capacity to generate a magnetic field of their own. Magnetic fields are one of the must-have factors that make a planet habitable.

Researchers from Europe discovered water on a planet situated about 134 light-years away. Some experts believe that the planet, named K2-18 b, might have clouds and rainfalls. Even more, this world is situated in the space that astronomers call the habitable zone, which means it has the right temperature to sustain life.

K2-18 b is about eight times the size of our planet, falling in the category of suer-Earths. A planet is named super-Earth if its size is somewhere between those of Earth and Neptune.

Dr. Ingo Waldmann, a scientist at the University College London, said: “Super-Earths are actually the most common type of planet in our galaxy.” Dr. Waldmann is also one of the scientists who reported the existence of water on K2-18 b.

In 1995, scientists discovered the first planet orbiting an active star outside of our solar system. In more recent times, the Kepler space telescope took on to discover over 4,000 exoplanets.

“The early exoplanet systems found were the simple ones, with one hot Jupiter going around a star. We weren’t really expecting anything like super-Earths, but then they started to show up. We know as good as nothing about super-Earths at the moment because they don’t exist in our own solar system,” Dr. Waldmann added.

The majority of exoplanets are found when they transit in front of stars of small dimensions, causing their light to dim. Observing the movement of the planet, scientists can determine its mass and radius.

According to scientists, super-Earth come in all shapes and forms. Some of them have lava oceans at high temperatures that can melt iron, while others are mostly covered in water.
Studying the surface of exoplanets gives scientists a hint about their core and the percentage of iron or silicone it consists of, which ultimately reveals if the planets have a magnetic field or not.