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Weather forecast for alien planet a possibility

New York, Jan 1 : The aliens didn't know it was going to pour! But we did.


Hold your breath. For the first time, astronomers have provided weather forecast for an alien planet.

Using Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers from Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago have characterised the atmosphere of a super-earth class planet orbiting another star.

The scrutinised planet - known as GJ1214b - is classified as a super-earth type planet because its mass is intermediate between those of earth and neptune, says a new study.

The team of researchers led by Laura Kreidberg and Jacob Bean detected clear evidence of clouds in the atmosphere of GJ1214b from data collected with the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Hubble spectra revealed no chemical fingerprints whatsoever in the planet's atmosphere. This allowed astronomers to rule out cloud-free atmospheres made of water vapour, methane, nitrogen, carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide, said a new paper published in the journal Nature.

The Hubble observations used 96 hours of telescope time spread over 11 months. This was the largest Hubble programme ever devoted to studying a single exoplanet.

The researchers describe their work as an important milestone on the road to identifying potentially habitable, earth-like planets beyond our Solar System.

"We really pushed the limits of what is possible with Hubble to make this measurement," said senior author Kreidberg.

--IANS (Posted on 01-01-2014)

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