Life, as we’ve seen, is an extraordinarily rare thing. So rare, in fact, that out of the thousands of exoplanets we’ve found, not a single one of them could indisputably host our kind of life. However, the prerequisites are kind of simple on the surface. Carbon-based life forms clearly demand carbon, but the presence of liquid water as well, yet, for something so incredibly prevalent on Earth, water is a scarce resource out in the cosmos. In fact, only a small number of planets have trace amounts of it at all. If a new, related discovery is confirmed, it would be one heck of an important milestone for astronomers. The world this find revolves around, called WISE J0855-0714, is situated approximately 7.3 light-years from Earth (within spitting distance, cosmologically speaking, of course). It’s not your average, run-of-the-mill planet, but a brown dwarf. Reports have emerged that astronomers could have detected water within the tumultuous clouds of this neighboring brown dwarf’s atmosphere, which is a first. As sophisticated as current telescopes are, they still aren’t powerful enough to acquire a closer look at the spectra of WISE J0855-0714 to confirm the tentative findings.
In 2018, Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Telescope, is set to take to the skies. Being that it will be the most powerful telescope ever hoisted into space, it could help shed further light on this object.
Kemo D. 7Space Art by Michael Böhme