Though this roaster is far too hot to support life, carbon dioxide has been detected by Hubble in the atmosphere of an exoplanet, HD 189733b, the same distant planet which has also surrendered evidence for water vapor and methane. Beside being exciting in and of itself - some 333 exoplanets have been discovered in the last ten years and the search goes on for a planet with the right characteristics to support life - the find marks the further development of a mission for which Hubble was never explicitly designed. The Space Fellowship:
Previous observations of HD 189733b by Hubble and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope found water vapor. Earlier this year, Hubble found methane in the planet’s atmosphere.
'Hubble was conceived primarily for observations of the distant universe, yet it is opening a new era of astrophysics and comparative planetary science,' said Eric Smith, Hubble Space Telescope program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. '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.'
The image here is an artist's impression of the Jupiter-sized planet based its known characteristics.
Credit: ESA, NASA, G. Tinetti (University College London, UK & ESA) and M. Kornmesser (ESA/Hubble)