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News Release 381 of 1057

March 19, 2008 02:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2008-11

Hubble Finds First Organic Molecule on an Exoplanet

March 19, 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. 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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Science Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Swain (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Artwork Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)