Extrasolar Gas Giants Turn Up Dry
A “dramatic step” led to a “big surprise”, said a press release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope was able to capture the first spectral information from two planets orbiting other stars. HD 209458b and HD 189733b are so-called “hot Jupiters” – similar in size to our gas giants, they orbit much closer in. The astronomers predicted they would find evidence of water vapor in the upper atmospheres of these exoplanets, but they found only dust.
The techniques used are called a “dress rehearsal” in the search for evidence of life around smaller, rocky planets. “This would allow them to look for the footprints of life – molecules key to the existence of life, such as oxygen and possibly even chlorophyll.”
The New York Times also reported on the story, as did Space.com. An artist’s conception appeared on the Feb. 27 Astronomy Picture of the Day.
Sorry for the upset. There have been many of those in astrobiology lately (02/15/2007). Thanks for downplaying the obligatory non-sequitur that water equals life. Maybe we can still relate to HD 209458b and HD 189733b in another sense. Maybe they have dust bunnies.