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Re: Yahoo! News Story - In a first for astronomy, methane is spotted on distant

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  • mahtezcatpoc
    The star is also known as V452 Vulpeculae and is located just west of the Dumbbell Nebula (Messier 27) in the Fox s belly. RA: 20h 00m 43.713s Dec:
    Message 1 of 3 , Mar 30, 2008
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      The star is also known as V452 Vulpeculae and is located just west of
      the Dumbbell Nebula (Messier 27) in the Fox's belly.

      RA: 20h 00m 43.713s Dec: +22°42'39.070" (2000)

      8 Aquarius 51 (Tropical).


      Mark A. Holmes



      > --- In thefixedstars@yahoogroups.com, Mark Andrew Holmes
      > <mahtezcatpoc@> wrote:
      > >
      > >
      > > Mark Andrew Holmes (mahtezcatpoc@) has sent you a news article.
      > > (Email address has not been verified.)
      > > ------------------------------------------------------------
      > > Personal message:
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > In a first for astronomy, methane is spotted on distant planet -
      > Yahoo! News
      > >
      > >
      > http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080320/ts_afp/spaceastronomyexoplanetmet
      > hane
      >
      >
      >
      > BLGD...
      >
      >
      > Mark A. Holmes
      >
      >
      >
      > Begin story.--
      >
      >
      > In a first for astronomy, methane is spotted on distant planet
      >
      > Thu Mar 20, 4:03 AM ET
      >
      >
      >
      > PARIS (AFP) - Astronomers have announced they have detected methane
      > in the atmosphere of a planet 63 light years away, boosting prospects
      > for identifying any life that exists beyond our Solar System.
      >
      > The team also confirmed previous suspicions that the planet, known by
      > the tag of HD 189733b, has water in its atmosphere.
      >
      > Reporting their work in the weekly British journal Nature this week,
      > astronomers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) used the
      > orbiting US-European Hubble telescope to get an infrared
      > spectroscopic signature of the planet's atmosphere.
      >
      > Spectroscopy entails breaking light into its components to reveal
      > the "fingerprints" of chemicals it contains.
      >
      > They found an unmistakeable signature for methane, a molecule of
      > carbon and hydrogen that can in some conditions play a key role in
      > creating the conditions for life.
      >
      > In this case, life on HD 189733b is almost certainly out of the
      > question.
      >
      > The planet, located in the constellation of Vulpecula, or the Little
      > Fox, is one of a type of large planets called "hot Jupiters," whose
      > surface is scorched and where liquid water could not exist.
      >
      > HD 189733b is closer to its star than Mercury is to the Sun. It takes
      > only two days to complete one orbit and has a sweltering temperature
      > of 900 degrees Celsius (1,650 degrees Fahrenheit) -- hot enough to
      > melt silver.
      >
      > What counts, though, is the achievement of spotting the methane.
      >
      > The technique could be extended to other planets that orbit cooler
      > stars in the so-called "Goldilocks Zone," where the temperature is
      > not too hot, not too cold but just right for nurturing life.
      >
      > "This is a crucial stepping stone to eventually characterising pre-
      > biotic molecules on planets where life could exists," said JPL's Mark
      > Swain, who led the investigation.
      >
      > "This observation is proof that spectroscopy can eventually be done
      > on a cooler and potentially habitable Earth-sized planet orbiting a
      > dimmer red dwarf-type star."
      >
      > More than 270 planets beyond our Solar System, known as exoplanets,
      > have been spotted since the first one was detected 13 years ago.
      >
      > Although the tally of planets is steadily rising, the big frustration
      > has been to garner details about their chemical composition -- the
      > key to identifying whether any holds the potential for life.
      >
      > Swain's team used the powerful NICMOS spectroscopy camera aboard the
      > Hubble to get snapshots as HD 189733b passed on a direct line between
      > its own star and Earth on a day in May last year.
      >
      > The light from the star passed through the planet's atmosphere,
      > bringing with it telltale chemical signatures -- but the chief task
      > lay in finding these needles in a haystack of wavelengths.
      >
      > The observations also confirmed the existence of water molecules,
      > something that had been inferred earlier by NASA's Spitzer space
      > telescope.
      >
      > In a commentary, University of Arizona planetary scientist Adam
      > Showman said that the achievement was a remarkable step forward in
      > exoplanet knowledge.
      >
      > The Hubble and Spitzer telescopes are now entering old age, but new-
      > generation, more powerful orbital platforms are under development, he
      > noted.
      >
      > "We are thus now seeing but the opening salvo in a revolution that
      > will extend humankind's view of planetary worlds far beyond the
      > provincial boundaries of our Solar System," said Showman, writing in
      > Nature.
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > --End story.
      >
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