Infrared telescope can pick out the atmosphere on distant planets, smell what the aliens are smelling

Astronomers in Chile using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope are now able to analyze the atmosphere on faraway planet Tau Bootis b. Using CRIRES, a supercooled infrared spectrograph bolted to the 'scope, the team was able to judge the size of the exoplanet -- and for the first time, take a reading of the atmosphere while not in transit. Historically, the only time researchers have been able to conduct atmospheric analysis is during the transit of its nearby star, which imprints the qualities of the atmosphere onto the light. The team found that Tau Bootis b is around six times the size of Jupiter, but its air is so thick with Carbon Monoxide that we'll have to look elsewhere to plan that expedition to the stars.