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NASA Scientists Identify Atmospheres of 2 Exoplanets

deep_spaceNASA scientists have identified the atmospheres of two planets outside the solar system through the Hubble Space Telescope.

The scientists found layers of clouds covering the planets GJ 436b, 36 light-years from Earth, and GJ 1214b, 40 light-years away, NASA said Tuesday.

GJ 436b, in the constellation Leo, is described as a “warm Neptune” for its proximity to its star and GJ 1214b, in the constellation Ophiuchus, is characterized as a “super-Earth” for its size.

Both GJ 436b and GJ 1214b are seen passing in front of their stars and scientists, led by Heather Knutson of the California Institute of Technology, based their studies upon such observations with Hubble.

“Either this planet has a high cloud layer obscuring the view, or it has a cloud-free atmosphere that is deficient in hydrogen, which would make it very unlike Neptune,” said Knutson.

Knutson added GJ 436b’s atmosphere could contain water vapor, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, which block detection and remove chemical signatures since the Hubble spectra showed no chemical fingerprints.

A team led by Laura Kreidberg and Jacob Bean of the University of Chicago found traces of high clouds blanketing GJ 1214b and concealing information about the planet’s composition.

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