Looks like Hubble may turn to be a key in finding extraterrestrial life. A new technique developed by NASA has found CO2, one of the byproducts of life, in a Jupiter-sized planet called HD189733b:
The carbon dioxide is the main reason for the excitement because, under the right circumstances, it could have a connection to biological activity as it does on Earth. The very fact we are able to detect it and estimate its abundance is significant for the long-term effort of characterising planets to find out what they are made of and if they could be a possible host for life.
Until now, the Hubble was mostly used for observations of stars and galaxies in the distant universe. However, the new analysis method created by Mark Swain, a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., uses the space telescope's near infrared camera and multi-object spectrometer to make these findings.
The technique requires the planet to block its star. At that time, the light of the star could be subtracted from the light of the star and the planet prior to the eclipse. That way, scientists can analyse the chemical composition of the planet's atmosphere by looking at the resulting light, because the gases "absorb certain wavelengths of light from the planet's hot glowing interior".
According to NASA, HD 189733b is too hot to actually have life (at least, life as we know it), but the method opens the door to the discovery of life in distant solar systems.
As if Tom wasn't proof enough that aliens actually exists. [NASA]