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New method reveals atmosphere on 'Hot Jupiter' (+video)

Using a ground-based telescope to probe exoplanet atmospheres, which were visible only when illuminated by stars, scientists say they hope to study much cooler planets.

One of the first exoplanets to be discovered, Tau Boötis b, has revealed a chilly shell 'hot Jupiter' type atmosphere. Europe's Very Large Telescope (VLT) caught the scene, here also embellished as an artist's impression.
Credit: ESO/L. Calçada / Mash Mix: SPACE.com
Original Music by Mark C. Petersen, Loch Ness Productions
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The atmospheres of alien planets can now be probed even if they are not illuminated by stars directly behind them, astronomers say.

A new method used to scan the atmosphere of a distant "hot Jupiter" world could eventually reveal insights about many distant alien planets — including, perhaps, whether or not they support life, the researchers added.

"If we could detect gases like oxygen, these could point to biological activity," study co-author Ignas Snellen, an astronomer at Leiden University in the Netherlands, told SPACE.com.

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A new look at exoplanet atmospheres

Scientists have analyzed the atmospheres of exoplanets before, but only when those worlds passed in front of their parent stars, much like Venus did during its recent transit of the sun.

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