posted on Feb, 5 2004 @ 06:46 PM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The Hubble Space Telescope has detected oxygen and carbon in the atmosphere of a distant planet, the first time these elements
have been found around a world outside our solar system, scientists said on Monday.
Unlike Earth, the planet is a hot, gassy orb very close to its sun-like star, and the oxygen and carbon are not signs of any sort of life, Hubble
scientists said in a statement.
Still, astronomers said Hubble's findings show that the chemical composition of atmospheres of planets many light-years away can be measured.
The planet -- known as HD 209458b or Osiris -- is orbiting a star 150 light-years from Earth. A light-year is about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion km),
the distance light travels in a year.
Osiris is only 4.3 million miles (6.92 million km) from its star -- compared with Earth's 93 million miles (150 million km) from the sun -- and whips
around in an orbit of less than four days.
It belongs to a class of planets called "hot Jupiters," whose upper atmosphere is so hot it boils hydrogen off into space.
NASA announced last month that it would not send a previously scheduled servicing mission to Hubble, effectively consigning the orbiting telescope to
a slow death.