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December 9, 2008 01:00 PM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-2008-41

Hubble Finds Carbon Dioxide on an Extrasolar Planet

Hubble Finds Carbon Dioxide on an Extrasolar PlanetGo to image download page Go to video downloads page

December 9, 2008: NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star. This is an important step along the trail of finding the chemical biotracers of extraterrestrial life as we know it.

The Jupiter-sized planet, called HD 189733b, is too hot for life. But the Hubble observations are a proof-of-concept demonstration that the basic chemistry for life can be measured on planets orbiting other stars. Organic compounds can also be a by-product of life processes, and their detection on an Earth-like planet may someday provide the first evidence of life beyond Earth.

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Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Swain (Jet Propulsion Lab/Caltech)