On Monday, July 4, the Hubble space telescope logged its one millionth science observation since its 1990 launch: a spectroscopic image of the exoplanet HAT-P-7b, also known as Kepler 2b.
While Hubble is best known for producing incredible images of the universe around us, this particular observation is of light from Kepler 2b 1,000 light years away. The spectroscopic measurement of the planet's atmosphere examines light in its component colors, which have patterns that can reveal the chemical compositions of the atmosphere.
Hubble was examining Kepler 2b, looking for water in its atmosphere. Kepler 2b has been studied by NASA's Kepler observatory since its discovery, and Hubble's job now is to analyze the planet's atmosphere.
Drake Deming of the University of Maryland and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said, "We are looking for the spectral signature of water vapor. This is an extremely precise observation and it will take months of analysis before we have an answer."
The planet is a gas giant larger than Jupiter, and it orbits a star hotter than our sun.