If Elon Musk and SpaceX are looking to inhabit far away worlds, it might make sense to find the most Earth-like places possible, with virgin air and untouched water. With the recent discovery of water on distant exoplanets, we might be one step closer to that reality.
Using the Hubble Space Telescope's powerful Wide Field Camera 3, which is capable of peering at exoplanets trillions of miles away, two teams of scientists have found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant planets.
The strengths of the water signatures varied on the five planets WASP-17b, HD209458b, WASP-12b, WASP-19b, and XO-1b. Each orbit a star, allowing for observation. WASP-17b and HD209458b had the strongest signals, but the readings from the other three planets -- WASP-12b, WASP-19b and XO-1b -- also are consistent with evidence of water.
The presence of atmospheric water was reported previously on a few exoplanets orbiting stars beyond our solar system, but this is the first study to measure conclusively and compare the profiles and intensities of these signatures on multiple worlds.