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Pre-Oscar Infrared Stargazing

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As happens every year, the wattage from the collective star-power gathered for the Oscars turns the universe into a dim bulb. But just before the big day, local braniacs at Cal-Tech have managed up another amazing astronomical feat.

Using the Spitzer infrared Space Telescope, scientists peered at two planets, (360 and 904 trillion miles away) and for the first time, were able to identify molecules in an extra-solar atmosphere.

The problem observing planets orbiting other stars has been separating the light radiating from the star and that from the planet. In this case, astronomers took infrared spectrum measurements of the planet in front of the star, and when it passed from view. They subtracted the change, and found they were surrounded by a blanket of high, dry clouds possibly laden with dust, and unlike anything found in our solar system.

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See more images from the Spitzer Space Telescope

Photo by mightyjc