Water Vapor Found on Distant Planet
Astronomers take incredibly close look at far-away gas giant
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2013 5:31 PM CDT
An image of the HR 8799 planetary system.   (RC-HIA / C. Marois / Keck Observatory)

(Newser) – Scientists say they've spotted water vapor and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere of a huge gas planet some 130 light-years from Earth, NBC News reports. That doesn't mean life exists there—the planet, HR 8799c, is way too hot and gassy—but it does highlight our growing ability to learn about far-away worlds. "The big surprise was actually that we could do it," says the co-author of the study, published in Science. "We can actually see the individual lines of these molecules."

Astronomers used a telescope in Hawaii to conduct the scan, the most detailed ever of an alien planet's atmosphere. One day they could do the same with smaller, earth-sized planets, they say, if the telescope is planted on a dedicated spacecraft. Another neat finding: The authors say planets in the system formed as Earth did, by accruing the dust and gas that surrounds infant stars. But not everyone buys that interpretation: "Theorists are clever," says a dubious astrophysicist. "It's hard to paint them into a corner."

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Showing 3 of 32 comments
BCS
Mar 16, 2013 1:16 AM CDT
Yawn.... let me know when you actually find something interesting. Good to know your equipment works, but it doesn't make for very interesting news.
Xavier_Thyme
Mar 15, 2013 10:03 PM CDT
I'll have some whisky to go with that water, please.
1492
Mar 15, 2013 6:46 PM CDT
We didn't have to send Curiosity 130 light years away to see if it has water and my gosh...in terms of distance, Mars is closer than the Moon... All we know about Mars is that "Maybe" it had water some million years ago...can't prove it..but perhaps there are signs of life on Mars...."We didn't say there has ever been life on Mars, we are just saying that maybe there was".....Don't worry Earthlings, your Trillion Dollar debt for going to Mars is justified...because there is evidence of "perhaps there was water"... Viking 1 and Viking 2 sent enough surface color photos of Mars...in the 1970's. Now that was exciting...to be able to see the surface of Mars finally once and for all. Nothing has changed on Mars since the two Viking Landers....red dirt and stones....... Curosity proved we can land a vehicle anywhere we want. That is the real success here...and we shouldn't put so much stress on NASA Scientist that they wish they had never sent it.....wonder if a rescue mission would be in order for the couple making rezdousveau for Mars....while they are emtying out their Outhouse they could drop a pickup wire and get Curosity....and haul it back home. Wish they would send a Curosity to Ur/anus or Neptune...perhaps the icy moon of Jupiter, Io. or Phobos the other moon. Even to the cool side of Mercury...heard there may possibility of sustaining life as we know it...forget Venus...it is as hot as Brushmans Gaseous Tiajuana cabaret dancer. 1942