Some 700 light-years from here, NASA has found a planet that looks a lot like Saturn, but also happens to have a lot of water!
Using Hubble and Spitzet space telescopes, scientists have analyzed the atmosphere of the newly discovered planet. It’s name is WASP-39b. Not only is it similar to Saturn by mass, it was also discovered that the planet has three times more water than Saturn. You can check the research paper here.
They concluded that WASP-39 has a lot of water by analyzing the starlight penetration through the atmosphere. Using this, scientists have concluded that the planet has a lot of water vapor in the atmosphere.
“This spectrum is thus far the most beautiful example we have of what a clear exoplanet atmosphere looks like,” the study’s lead investigator Hannah Wakeford, an astronomer the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, says.
However, there is just one problem. The planet is very, very close to it’s host star, WASP-39, about 20 closer to the star than Saturn is to the Sun. And the planet is also tidally locked, meaning one side is constantly facing the star.
Next-generation telescopes like James Webb will help demystify exoplanets like WASP-39b and allow scientists to peer into these strange worlds with unprecedented clarity. Of course, that all depends on when James Webb gets off the ground, as NASA already pushed the launch from October 2018 to spring 2019.