Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Even needing repair, Hubble makes science history

A recent breakthrough using NASA's Hubble Telescope is an important step toward finding the chemical signatures of extraterrestrial life. Hubble has discovered carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star. The planet in question, HD 189733b, is a Jupiter class gas giant that is too hot for life. However as the article in Science Daily suggests: ... 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 Earthlike planet someday may provide the first evidence of life beyond our planet.

The discovery of carbon dioxide is reason for a great deal of excitement because, under the right circumstances, it could have a connection to biological activity as it does on Earth and is significant for the long-term effort of characterizing planets to find out what they are made of and if they could be a possible host for life.

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