As NASA looks for potential life-bearing worlds, the search has inevitably sent them outside of our solar system. But even the largest telescope on Earth could not snap a sharp photo of a planet as far away as the young, gaseous exoplanet known as 2M1207b. So UA astronomers created an innovative, new way to map its clouds without actually seeing them in sharp relief: They measured its changing brightness over time.
Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the astronomers took the first direct, time-resolved images of an exoplanet. The camera system on Hubble, NICMOS, was installed in 1997 and was built by the UA's Steward Observatory with NASA funding. The instrument can see objects in deepest space — objects whose light takes billions of years to reach us here on Earth.