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A tale of two planets

Two papers in this issue of Nature report Hubble Space Telescope observations of two separate sub-Jupiter-sized extrasolar planets. Heather Knutson et al. observed four transits of the Neptune-mass planet GJ 436b and Laura Kreidberg et al. observed 15 transits of the smaller 'super-Earth' GJ 1214b. The transmission spectra of starlight passing through the atmospheres of these planets should give a good indication of the nature of their respective atmospheres, and for both planets the spectra obtained from Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 are virtually featureless. Knutson et al. argue that their data are consistent with either a high cloud deck at pressures of 0.1–10 mbar or a hydrogen-poor atmosphere on GJ 436b. Kreidberg et al. conclude that their near-infrared spectra are consistent with the presence of high-altitude clouds that obscure the lower layers of GJ 1214b.

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