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Spitzer Cracks Open Light From Distant Worlds

Feb. 21, 2007
NASA astronomers have, for the first time ever, split apart the light from exoplanets, which are planets beyond our solar system, to hunt for molecules in the planets' atmospheres. This milestone was achieved by three separate teams of scientists who made similar discoveries, all of them using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. More information on Spitzer is at www.nasa.gov/spitzer and www.spitzer.caltech.edu .

CUT 1 – DR. MARK SWAIN, A RESEARCH SCIENTIST AT NASA'S JET PROPULSION LABORATORY IN PASADENA, CALIF., LED ONE OF THREE TEAMS THAT MADE THE DISCOVERY. HE EXPLAINS WHY THE FINDINGS ARE SO SIGNIFICANT.
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Length: 12 seconds
OUT: "THE NEAR FUTURE"

Transcript: "Oh, we're studying weather on another world, and this is a stepping stone to eventually studying signs of life on worlds where life could exist, the habitable worlds which we're hoping to discover in the near future.

2 - DR. CARL GRILLMAIR (GRILL-myer), RESEARCH ASTRONOMER WITH THE SPITZER SCIENCE CENTER AT CALTECH IN PASADENA, LED ONE OF THREE TEAMS THAT MADE THE DISCOVERY. HE SAYS THEY WERE SURPRISED THAT NO WATER WAS DETECTED IN THE ATMOSPHERES OF THE PLANETS STUDIED, ALTHOUGH CLOUDS COULD BE BLOCKING WATER FROM VIEW.
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Length: 31 seconds
OUT: "EXPECTED FROM WATER"
Transcript: " It was believed to be fairly straightforward that these planets would have a lot of water in them, for one thing, very hot water. These planets, these hot Jupiters very, very close in to their parent stars, are 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit or so, so it's not a pleasant place to live. And what we found instead and what the other group found for this completely different planet around another star, is that the spectrum is essentially flat. It really doesn’t show any of the features we would have expected from water.

3 - DR JEREMY RICHARDSON OF NASA'S GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER IN GREENBELT, MARYLAND, LED ONE OF THREE TEAMS THAT MADE THE DISCOVERY. HE SAYS HIS TEAM FOUND EVIDENCE OF SILICATES AROUND AN EXOPLANET.
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Length: 9 seconds
OUT: "DUST GRAINS"
Transcript: "W hat that means is that there's likely a cloud that's pretty high in the atmosphere that could be made of these silicate grains, basically dust grains."


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