Astronomers analyze atmosphere of distant planet

from the Distant-airs dept.
(28 November 2001) – Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have been able to obtain data indicating the presence of sodium of a planet orbiting another star. This is the first direct detection and chemical analysis of the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system. Their unique observations demonstrate it is possible with Hubble and other telescopes to measure the chemical makeup of extrasolar planets' atmospheres and potentially to search for chemical markers of life beyond Earth. The planet orbits a Sun-like star that lies 150 light-years away in the constellation Pegasus. Its atmospheric composition was probed when the planet passed in front of its parent star, allowing astronomers to see light from the star filtered through the planet's atmosphere. Additional information is available in this press release from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and an article in the New York Times.

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