Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Methane in space

A "little fox" with methane spotted!

The organic compound methane was found in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting a star some 63 light years away.

Under certain circumstances, methane can play a key role in prebiotic chemistry - the chemical reactions considered necessary to form life.

This is the first time we have found organic matter outside our solar system.

Vulpecula - the little fox


The planet, HD 189733b, now known to have methane and water vapour is located 63 light-years away in the constellation Vulpecula, the little fox. HD 189733b, a "hot Jupiter"-type extrasolar planet, is so close to its parent star that it takes just over two days to complete an orbit. "Hot Jupiters" are the size of Jupiter but orbit closer to their stars than the tiny innermost planet Mercury in our Solar System. HD 189733b's atmosphere swelters at 900 degrees C, about the same temperature as the melting point of silver.

The discovery was done with Hubble (and...)in a joint European and US scientific research project.

Here is a collection of links with more information:


European Space Agency

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