NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer telescope found strong traces of water signatures on a distant Neptune-sized planet. Will this lead to discovery of alien life?

The distant planet HAT-P-26b has a primitive atmosphere composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium is located 437-light-years away from Earth and orbits a star which is almost twice as old as Sun. While scientists were peering at the exoplanet, they discovered far less water in the gassy planet’s atmosphere than they expected which puts it at odds with the ice giants in our own solar system. The atmosphere of HAT-P-26b runs counter to some long-standing theories about planetary development and could help scientists understand the diversity of worlds beyond our own.

During recent observations through NASA’s telescopes, astronomers found that the planet’s atmosphere is relatively clear of clouds and has a strong water signature, although the planet is not a water world. This is one of the most detailed observations of an exoplanet which is also referred to as “warm Neptune” as it is a Neptune-sized planet orbiting its star closely, while completing its orbit in a span of 4.23 days. So did we find aliens? Well, that would be a no for now. But hope sustains.

Although this planet is not a water world, but findings reveal that its atmosphere doesn’t comprise of clouds and has strong water signature. And as per the experts, this is the best measurement of water made so far on a planet of this size. The water signatures don’t mean that the planet is a water world but the study and the intrusive data collected about the warm Neptune-like planet is rare and an achievement in itself. The study pointed towards how rich the planet is in elements which are heavier than hydrogen and helium. It also helped in providing evidence about the formation of the planet.

The study shows that there is a lot more diversity in the atmospheres of these exoplanets than we were expecting and an insight of how these planets may be come into existence and evolved in different solar systems accordingly. The unexpected results and the huge diversity in the study of such alien exoplanets is what makes astronomy so interesting and mystical. And the ever-present quest for alien-life still persists.