exoplanet transiting across the face of its star.
Image credit: ESA - C.Carreau
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This is interesting considering all the debate going on here lately at Stardust Musings about possible life on other planets. While a certain visitor states that it is absolutely unlikely for life to exist on other planets, these recent findings of water on a scorching-hot gas planet far beyond gives us just another bit of evidence that life is possible elsewhere in the universe. While life as we know it is improbable on HD 189733b because of the extreme heat, this new finding proves that the possibility exists that water could be found on other planets where conditions are suitable for life to emerge. It's fantastic how far humans are now able to see into space.
July 11, 2007 NASA Spitzer Mission News
The planet, called HD 189733b, swelters as it zips closely around its star every two days or so. Astronomers had predicted that planets of this class, termed "hot Jupiters," would contain water vapor in their atmospheres. Yet finding solid evidence for this has been slippery. These latest data are the most convincing yet that hot Jupiters are "wet."
"We're thrilled to have identified clear signs of water on a planet that is trillions of miles away," said Giovanna Tinetti, a European Space Agency fellow at the Institute d’Astrophysique de Paris in France." Tinetti is lead author of a paper on HD 189733b appearing today in Nature.
Although water is an essential ingredient to life as we know it, wet hot Jupiters are not likely to harbor any creatures. Previous measurements from Spitzer indicate that HD 189733b is a fiery 1,000 Kelvin (1,340 degrees Fahrenheit) on average. Ultimately, astronomers hope to use instruments like those on Spitzer to find water on rocky, habitable planets like Earth.
"Finding water on this planet implies that other planets in the universe, possibly even rocky ones, could also have water," said co-author Sean Carey of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "I'm excited to tell my nephews and niece about the discovery."
The new findings are part of a brand new field of science investigating the climate on exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. Such faraway planets cannot be seen directly; however, in the past few years, astronomers have begun to glean information about their atmospheres by observing a subset of hot Jupiters that transit, or pass in front of, their stars as seen from Earth.
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