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Scientists Intrigued by Water Planet Where Ocean Appears to Be Boiling

Watery Depths

About 70 light years away from our solar system is a planet that may potentially be covered entirely with water. But before you start imagining oceans just like the ones here on Earth, astronomers at the University of Cambridge say the planet-wide sea could be as hot as a pot of boiling water.

The astronomers uncovered this planet after interpreting data they had picked up using the NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, subsequently publishing their findings in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

They trained their sights on the TOI-270 system, which consists of a red dwarf star orbited by three exoplanets. Of these three planets, they studied data from TOI-270 d, which scientists have described as a smaller version of Neptune due to its gaseous composition.

After crunching data, analysis of the atmosphere's chemical composition suggests it might instead be a "Hycean world" — meaning a planet with a large ocean and hydrogen-rich atmosphere. And astonishingly, the scientists also calculated that its temperature could be as hot as 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the boiling point of water.

Strange New Worlds

But the data is open to interpreation. Other scientists who have studied the same planet were quoted by The Guardian saying they think the planet has instead a rocky surface and is covered with a very dense atmosphere made up of super hot steam and hydrogen.

"The temperature in our view is too warm for water to be liquid," University of Montreal astrophysics professor Björn Benneke told The Guardian.

No matter the true nature of TOI-270 d, it's astonishing we're now able to pick up the chemical signatures of distant exoplanets.

Since humankind found the first detection of an exoplanet in 1992, the number of exoplanets we have found has grown to the thousands.

Maybe the real question: in that wealth of worlds, will we ever find a planet as hospitable as our own?

More on exoplanets: Astronomers Discover Potentially Habitable Planet