December 4, 2013
The Hubble Space Telescope has spied five alien worlds around distant stars that show clear signs of water vapor filling their atmospheres, according to a new study. The find represents the first conclusive detection and comparison of water vapor in the atmosphere of planets orbiting nearby stars.
While they all have unromantic names like WASP-17b, HD209458b, WASP-12b, WASP-19b, and XO-1b, they also all orbit nearby stars and show signs of water vapor in their atmospheres.
These “exoplanets” are no place for life, since each is classified as a hot Jupiter—gas giants that circle very closely to their parent suns. However, clear chemical fingerprints of water vapor were detected in light reflected off their uppermost cloud decks and seen by the storied space telescope.