Rocks From Space Tell Us About Other Planets

Astronomers have discovered thousands of planets outside our solar system. These are called exoplanets. Recent space rock experiments revealed that some of these planets have water in their atmospheres. This means that some of these distant planets could possibly support life.

Is there an earth like planet?
Image Credit-Carnegie Institution for Science--Conel M. O'D. Alexander

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What are exoplanets?

Exoplanets fascinate astronomers because they are very mysterious. More and more are being discovered. Some of them are totally unlike the planets in our solar system; for example, there is one that goes around two stars instead of just one.
Scientists want to know more about these planets. What are they made of? How were they formed? Scientists are especially curious to know the answers to more intriguing questions like:
“Is there an Earth-like planet out there?” or “Is there life in other planets?”

What did the researchers do to learn more about exoplanets?

To learn more about exoplanets, two teams of scientists decided to study space rocks, or meteorites. The scientists believed that studying these space rocks could give them more information about exoplanets.
In their studies, the researchers crushed the space rocks until they became powder. Then, they baked this powder. As the powder heated up, the researchers measured and identified the gases that escaped from them. These gases could explain what exoplanets’ atmospheres are made of.

What did the experiments reveal?

The researchers found that the gases were mostly water vapor, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and hydrogen sulfide. There were also other complex gases that they have not yet identified.
The results suggest that some exoplanets may have water. Water supports life, which might mean that there is life on these other planets.
Along with the amazing results of these studies, NASA announced that a new, powerful telescope will soon be able to detect oxygen in exoplanets’ atmospheres. Together, they bring us closer to finding out if life exists outside Earth.

After reading the passage, answer the following questions:

1. What are exoplanets?

  • Planets outside the solar system
  • Planets that exit the solar system
  • New planets discovered in the solar system
  • Planets that do not exist in the universe

Answer: a
2. Why do scientists want to study exoplanets?

  • To find out what they’re made of
  • To discover how they were formed
  • To know if they support alien life
  • All of the above

Answer: d
3. How did the scientists learn more about exoplanets?

  • They traveled to these distant planets.
  • They did experiments using space rocks.
  • They sent robots to study the exoplanets.
  • They observed the sun and the moon.

Answer: b
4. What did the scientists find out after their experiments?

  • Some exoplanets have water in their atmospheres.
  • It is possible for some exoplanets to support life.
  • Neither a nor b
  • Both a and b

Answer: d

Recommended Reading Age: 8th  Grade

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This news was published in the Roselin Rosario Issue. Read more here.

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