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Why is there so much excitement over helium having been discovered on an exoplanet? Isn't it oxygen that we should be looking for, since this is what is needed for life? What do we need helium for?

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    $\begingroup$ It would be helpful if you add a link to the info, and maybe describe the planet. Then it would be obvious if it is indeed another 'hot jupiter'. I would expect it to be, because Helium would likely disappear from the atmosphere of a smaller planet. $\endgroup$ – bitchaser May 19 '18 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ If we discovered helium on an earthlike planet, that would imply that there are radioactive elements present. That in turn would imply the possibility of a molten core that could generate a magnetic field around said planet. (Just my $0.02 worth). $\endgroup$ – BillDOe May 20 '18 at 22:45
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    $\begingroup$ Why would you think we "should be looking for oxygen"? We're not trying to make sci-fi films a reality, we're trying to understand nature around is, which includes the universe. $\endgroup$ – AtmosphericPrisonEscape May 24 '18 at 13:39
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You are right that helium around a gas giant is no kind of surprise, and oxygen on an Earthlike planet would be spectacularly more important. However, the excitement is simply that if you can detect one element, it means you might be able to detect another. It just gives you more ways to learn about the planet, and offers promise for more new ways to learn. One might find analogy with the first detection of exoplanets, which were "hot Jupiters." No one was surprised stars can have planets, and no one thinks hot Jupiters are conducive to life, but if you can discover one kind of planet, it bodes well for the later discovery of others. Anything we can learn about composition is an important step in the right direction.

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  • $\begingroup$ So this is another gas giant and not a small rocky Planet ? It is small rocky Planets, that would be more of interest , than these lifeless gas giants, that they are so excited about . $\endgroup$ – Peter U May 19 '18 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ @PeterU we need the link, but a planet that retains helium but loses hydrogen is possible. There's a particular window where that can happen, small gas giant/heavy Neptune, hot gas giant or massive rocky planet. Lighter gas escapes a planet more easily so a helium dominant atmosphere or outer envelope might be rare, but isn't surprising if found. $\endgroup$ – userLTK May 20 '18 at 3:06

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