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Astronomers have gleaned some of the best data yet on the composition of a planet known as HR 8799c -- a young giant gas planet about 7 times the mass of Jupiter that orbits its star every 200 years.

The team used state-of-the art instrumentation at the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii to confirm the existence of water in the planet's atmosphere, as well as a lack of methane.

While other researchers had previously made similar measurements of this planet, these new, more robust data demonstrate the power of combining high-resolution spectroscopy with a technique known as adaptive optics, which corrects for the blurring effect of Earth's atmosphere.

"This type of technology is exactly what we want to use in the future to look for signs of life on an Earth-like planet. We aren't there yet but we are marching ahead," says Dimitri Mawet, an associate professor of astronomy at Caltech and a research scientist at JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA.

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Category: Science