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Water discovered on a potentially habitable super-Earth

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In the dim, red light of an alien sun, scientists have found the first evidence for water in the atmosphere of a “super-Earth”-size planet — offering a tantalizing (if cryptic) new target in the search for life in the universe.

The intriguing world, which goes by the impersonal designation K2-18b, lies just 110 light-years away in the constellation Leo. More important: It sits in its star’s “habitable zone,” where it is bathed in the same amount of energy from its star as Earth gets from the sun.

Twice as large as our own planet and eight times as massive, K2-18b possesses powerful gravity that would make it difficult to walk upon. It orbits close to a red dwarf star, much smaller and cooler than our sun. And aside from water vapor, its atmosphere contains mostly hydrogen gas — a molecule that makes up less than 1 part per million of our own atmosphere.

It is no “second Earth,” said astronomer Angelos Tsiaras, the lead author of a study on the planet published Wednesday in the journal Nature Astronomy. But he believes it is “the best candidate for habitability that we know right now.”

The paper by Tsiaras draws on publicly available data produced by Björn Benneke, a planetary astronomer at the University of Montreal in Canada. On Tuesday, Benneke’s team posted its own analysis of K2-18b on the preprint server arXiv, which hosts academic papers not yet published in peer-reviewed journals.

Benneke and his colleagues also found signatures of water vapor in K2-18b’s skies. But they were less optimistic than Tsiaras about the potential habitability of this world. The Montreal-based team’s interpretation of its data suggests the hydrogen atmosphere forms a thick, gaseous envelope around the planet. This would generate intense pressures at the planet’s surface — perhaps enough to push hydrogen into a liquid form.

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Hyderabad based GVK Group reportedly under government scanner

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Mumbai: The GVK Group, which is in locked in a legal battle with the Adani Group on stake sale in its flagship Mumbai International Airport (MIAL), on Tuesday said it has received a notice from the corporate affairs ministry (MCA), seeking some details about the airport operator.

This comes at a time when the Hyderabad-based diversified GVK Power & Infrastructure Limited, which owns 50.5 percent stake in the MIAL, is in the process of hiking its stake in the airport arm by acquiring 23.5 per cent additional stake from Bidvest and ACSA.

The MCA notice, according to sources, is based on a whistleblower complaint to MCA with regard to alleged ‘diversion of funds’ from some of the GVK Group companies.

MCA has initiated an inspection of the books of 11 entities, which include GVK Power & Infrastructure, Mumbai International Airport, GVK Jaipur Expressway Pvt and GVK Power. It has also ordered an inspection of the books of Navi Mumbai International Airport Pvt – the under construction airport at Navi Mumbai.

These companies are located in different jurisdictions — Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Rajasthan and Mumbai — of the Registrar of Companies and MCA has sent a physical inspection letter to each of these companies, sources said.

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