JPL: A Little Telescope Goes a Long Way

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bystander
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JPL: A Little Telescope Goes a Long Way

Post by bystander » Wed Feb 03, 2010 8:54 pm

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2010-038
NASA astronomers have successfully demonstrated that a David of a telescope can tackle Goliath-size questions in the quest to study Earth-like planets around other stars. Their work, reported today in the journal Nature, provides a new tool for ground-based observatories, promising to accelerate by years the search for prebiotic, or life-related, molecules on planets orbiting stars beyond our solar system.

The scientists reported on a new technique used with a relatively small Earth-based telescope to identify an organic molecule in the atmosphere of a Jupiter-size planet nearly 63 light-years away. The measurement revealed details of the exoplanet's atmospheric composition and conditions, an unprecedented achievement from an Earth-based observatory.

The surprising new finding comes from a venerable 30-year-old, 3-meter-diameter (10-foot) telescope that ranks 40th among ground-based telescopes - NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

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SciAm: Down to Earth

Post by bystander » Wed Feb 03, 2010 11:18 pm

Down to Earth: Technique Lets Ground-Based Telescopes Parse Exoplanet Atmospheres
Scientific American - 2010 Feb 03

A new study shows promise for Earthbound observatories in identifying molecules in planetary atmospheres outside the solar system