Hubble - greatest discoveries
Exoplanets and proto-planetary discs:
How Hubble has made the first ever image of an exoplanet in visible light, and spotted planetary systems as they form
Hubble's high resolution has been indispensable in the investigation of the gas and dust disks, dubbed proplyds, around the newly born stars in the Orion Nebula. The proplyds may very well be young planetary systems in the early stages of creation. Also thanks to Hubble we have visual proof today that dusty disks around young stars are common.
The first detection of an atmosphere around an extrasolar planet was seen in a gas-giant planet orbiting the Sun-like star HD 209458, 150 light-years from Earth. The presence of sodium as well as evaporating hydrogen, oxygen and carbon was detected in light filtered through the planet's atmosphere when it passed in front of its star as seen from Earth. The details revealed by Hubble are superior to anything seen to date with ground-based instruments.
Hubble has been instrumental in studying these extra-solar planets but it has also helped to detect them as well. In 2008, Hubble made an image of the planet Fomalhaut b, a gas giant planet about three times the mass of Jupiter, which orbits the star Fomalhaut. This was the first ever image made of an exoplanet in visible light. Within the same year the first organic molecule on an extrasolar planet was detected by Hubble.
In 2012 Hubble even discovered a complete new type of extra-solar planet: a waterworld enshrouded by a thick, steamy atmosphere. Later Hubble was able to measure for the first time the colour and to create the most detailed weather map of an exoplanet.
This is one of nine articles highlighting some of the greatest discoveries made by the Hubble Space Telescope. Read more in the articles linked from the right-hand menu.