Feeds

Hey, George Clooney. LOST in SPACE... and thirsty? Visit these 5 ALIEN worlds*

Hubble spots traces of water in the atmospheres of hazy hot Jupiters

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Boffins using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have spotted faint signs of water on five distant planets orbiting stars beyond our Solar System.

Youtube Video

The presence of atmospheric water on a few exoplanets has been seen before, but the new study had been able to measure how much water there is on the multiple worlds.

Two of the planets, WASP-17b and HD209458b, had the strongest signs of H2O, while the other three worlds - WASP-12b, WASP-19b and XO-1b - are all consistent with water.

"We're very confident that we see a water signature for multiple planets," said Avi Mandell, a planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and lead author on the study of WASP-12b, WASP-17b and WASP-19b.

"This work really opens the door for comparing how much water is present in atmospheres on different kinds of exoplanets, for example hotter versus cooler ones."

Mandell's team and a second group of scientists studying the other two worlds used Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 to look at details of the absorption of light in the planets' atmospheres. The teams compared the shape and intensity of the absorption profiles in a range of infrared wavelengths to spot water signatures.

"To actually detect the atmosphere of an exoplanet is extraordinarily difficult. But we were able to pull out a very clear signal, and it is water," said L Drake Deming of the University of Maryland, whose team reported results for HD209458b and XO-1b.

However, sadly the water signals were all less pronounced than expected, which the scientists believe may be because all of the alien worlds are covered in a layer of dust. This haze reduces the intensity of the signals from the atmosphere – in the manner that fog reduces visibility – and also alters the profiles of water and other important molecules.

None of the planets are candidates for immediate colonisation either, as all five are hot Jupiters - massive worlds orbiting close to their suns.

"These studies, combined with other Hubble observations, are showing us that there are a surprisingly large number of systems for which the signal of water is either attenuated or completely absent," said Heather Knutson of CalTech, a co-author on Deming's paper. "This suggests that cloudy or hazy atmospheres may in fact be rather common for hot Jupiters."

Both papers were published in the Astrophysical Journal. ®

* Yes, we know in the movie he was at the Hubble Space telescope and nowhere near the exoplanets in question... and there's no certainty there's water on them, et cetera... Don't be a buzzkill

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rockin' boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Internet Security Threat Report 2014
An overview and analysis of the year in global threat activity: identify, analyze, and provide commentary on emerging trends in the dynamic threat landscape.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.