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Organic Molecule on Extrasolar Planet
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Organic Molecule on Extrasolar Planet

March 20, 2008
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has made the first detection ever of an organic molecule in the atmosphere of a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting another star. They made the finding by studying how light from the host star filters through the planet's atmosphere. This breakthrough is an important step in eventually identifying signs of life on a planet outside our solar system. The molecule found by Hubble is methane, which under the right circumstances can play a key role in prebiotic chemistry — the chemical reactions considered necessary to form life as we know it. This illustration depicts the extrasolar planet HD 189733b with its parent star peeking above its top edge.


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