The astronomers’ unexpected results, they said Wednesday, underlined the need for more observations with Spitzer and future generations of telescopes. “We all have competing proposals in for the next round of Spitzer observations, so we’ll be watching our backs,” joked Grillmair. [email protected] (626) 578-6300, EXT. 4451 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! LA CA?ADA FLINTRIDGE – For the first time, astronomers have unraveled the information contained in light from two distant planets, and “what we found was nothing like what we expected to find,” said Jeremy Richardson, an astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Though theorists had previously predicted these distant gaseous worlds should be hot and steamy, observations with the Spitzer Space Telescope revealed no traces of water, he said. “The weather today on 209458b is hot, dry, probably cloudy with a chance of wind,” said Mark Swain, an astronomer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, about one of the two planets astronomers studied. The findings, announced at a Wednesday press conference, were made by three independent research groups. Despite the lack of any sign of liquid in Spitzer’s data, though, astronomers doubt the planets could be waterless worlds. “That, most people agree, is pretty unlikely,” said Carl Grillmair, a Caltech astronomer. Instead, the scientists suggest, the manner in which the planets are heated by their suns could mask the chemical signatures of water. Alternatively, the steam could be hidden beneath a thick layer of opaque clouds. As well as noting the absence of water, Richardson’s research group noted the presence of silicate dust in the atmosphere of one of the planets, a possible source of dark clouds. About 200 such distant planets have been discovered, known as “hot Jupiters” because they are larger and gaseous like Jupiter, but orbit much more closely around their stars.