Scientists have detected water vapor on other planets in the past, but these detections could only take place under very specific circumstances. The new technique expands a radial velocity technique, commonly used to detect carbon dioxide using light in the visible spectrum, into the infrared spectrum. This has opened up the ability of astronomers to analyze the molecules that comprise the atmosphere of exoplanets that don't exist under those specific circumstances.

The research is part of the Strategic Explorations of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru (SEEDS), a project to directly image extrasolar planets and protoplanetary disks around several hundred nearby stars using the Subaru Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The five-year project began in 2009 and is led by Motohide Tamura at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ).

An astronomer who grew up in Macomb is one of the researchers looking to unlock the mystery that is dark matter.

“I think people should care about dark matter insofar as they care about the universe in which they live,” Matthew Walker said.

Dark matter cannot be seen, yet scientists estimate it accounts for roughly 80% of the matter in the universe.  

“What we have here on earth is great and unique and important, but it's clearly not all that there is,” Walker said.