Hubble telescope finds carbon dioxide on extrasolar planet

December 10th, 2008 - 11:08 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 10 (Xinhua) The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star, the US space agency NASA reported Tuesday. This breakthrough is an important step toward finding chemical biotracers of extraterrestrial life, said NASA.

The Jupiter-sized planet, called HD 189733b, lies 63 light-years away from earth. It is too hot for life, but the Hubble observations are a proof-of-concept demonstration that the basic chemistry for life can be measured on planets orbiting other stars.

Organic compounds also can be a by-product of life processes and their detection on an Earth like planet someday may provide the first evidence of life beyond our planet, NASA said.

Previous observations of HD 189733b by Hubble and the Spitzer Space Telescope found water vapour. Earlier this year, Hubble found methane in the planet’s atmosphere.

“These atmospheric studies will begin to determine the compositions and chemical processes operating on distant worlds orbiting other stars. The future for this newly opened frontier of science is extremely promising as we expect to discover many more molecules in exoplanet atmospheres,” said Eric Smith, Hubble programme scientist at NASA.

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