NASA’s Kepler Telescope has discovered an exoplanet, which is a planet outside our solar system orbiting a star like Earth is orbiting the sun, with strong signs of a primitive atmosphere and liquid water.

The discovery

The space agency’s astronomers have discovered an exoplanet which is about a staggering distance of 437 light years from Earth. This planet’s official name is HAT-P-26b however it has been nicknamed “Warm Neptune” because its mass is very similar to the mass of the planet Neptune in our solar system. Their significant difference however, is that the exoplanet is orbiting its host star much closer than Neptune is orbiting the sun.

As a result, HAT-P-26b is much warmer than Neptune as it easily collects light and heat from its host star. In fact, its orbit is so close to its host star that it only takes approximately 4.25 days to complete a full orbit around the host star.

The fascinating discovery for NASA’s scientists, however, is that the “Warm Neptune” has a “primitive atmosphere” much like the one Earth had during its first stages of evolution which was a vital factor that led to the evolution of primitive microbial life on our planet. Its atmosphere has been described as primitive because it is made up primarily of hydrogen and helium. Thus, in addition to light and heat from its host star that can provide enough energy to allow for the evolution and support of Alien Life on the exoplanet, hydrogen can also potentially be a source of chemical energy that can support alien life.

Furthermore, the existence of an atmosphere on the exoplanet reveals that the planet has a magnetic field like Earth. A magnetic field protects a planet from space radiation and other threats such as solar flares which makes the existence and evolution of alien life on it much more probable.

Additionally, the exoplanet has vast quantities of liquid water and relatively not many clouds just like Earth.

Life as we know it needs liquid water in order to evolve and thrive. In fact, scientists believe that the first thing we should be looking for in order to find planets with alien life on them is the existence of liquid water. This exoplanet has all the signs we are looking for to reach the conclusion that alien life may exist on it.

It has two energy sources, an atmosphere, a magnetic field and liquid water.

The significance of the discovery

The great significance of the discovery is that until now, astronomers believed that giant planets can only form on the outer parts of a solar system. This meant that finding alien life on a giant planet was highly unlikely because their orbit is so far from their host star that it would have been impossible for them to collect enough heat energy for alien life to evolve and be sustained. That is why they concentrated on locating Earth-like exoplanets which they thought were more likely to have the potential of alien life evolving on them. The discovery of HAT-P-26b proves without any doubt that astronomers were wrong.

This opens up a new chapter in space exploration as it increases the scope of humanity’s search for a habitable planet to colonize. Recently Stephen Hawking issued a warning that if humanity does not find a new planet to colonize, we might face extinction within the next hundred years because of serious threats to our planet from external factors. Such discoveries give a lot of hope that this will be achieved very soon.

During the past two years, NASA has made very important discoveries that strongly suggest that alien life may exist on other planets. The most recent one being Cassimi’s discovery that alien life may exist on Saturn’s moons, Rhea and Titan. It is expected that more such discoveries will be made very soon as NASA is preparing missions that have the sole purpose of finding alien life and habitable planets.