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Carbon Dioxide on other worlds

This just in….(relatively speaking)

The venerable Hubble telescope has found carbon dioxide on an extra-solar planet.

Now, you may be thinking…”Wow, that means that Hubble may have found evidence for life since life can create carbon dioxide…”

Well, no. The planet in question, HD 189733b, is jupiter sized and far too hot for life as we know it.

Follow the link to see an artist’s conception of this planet orbiting its parent star. It’s probably very different in reality but the drawing is very pretty.

So if this planet is too hot for life, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that this is proof that the biomarkers for life can be detected in the atmospheres of extra-solar planets. This Hubble experiment was always just a proof-of-concept and it was a resounding success.

This means that we’ll know what to look for when we observe earth-sized planets. Finding C02 and other biomarkers on such a planet could mean that life exists on that planet.

To read more on this topic, try the following links:

http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2008/dec/HQ_08323_HST_Carbon.html

http://news.smashits.com/326367/Discovery-of-exoplanet-with-CO2-may-lead-to-detection-of-other-Earths.htm

3 comments to Carbon Dioxide on other worlds

  • wb4

    I thought a carbon-dioxide atmosphere was more or less the default for terrestrial planets. Venus and Mars both have CO2 atmospheres. Even Earth’s atmosphere was dominated by CO2 in pre-biotic eras. Why is CO2 considered a biomarker?

  • DLC

    Uh. WB4.. sorry, but wrong. The Earth’s atmosphere is roughly 78% nitrogen, 21% Oxygen, 0.9% Argon and .04% Carbon Dioxide.
    (numbers rounded up)
    Carbon dioxide can come from many sources, but one of them is oxygen-breathing life.
    Of course, just because we haven’t found any doesn’t mean that life that does not breathe oxygen is impossible. However, carbon dioxide could mean a life form, on a more suitable planet.

  • DLC, WB4 is completely correct. Your figures are for the current atmosphere, he/she was referring to the “pre-biotic” (before life) atmosphere.

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