Researchers used multiple observations from both the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to study the planets, which are of various masses, sizes, and temperatures, across an unprecedented range of wavelengths.

"We found the planetary atmospheres to be much more diverse than we expected," said David Sing of the University of Exeter in UK.

All of the planets have a favorable orbit that brings them between their parent star and Earth. As the exoplanet passes in front of its host star, as seen from Earth, some of this starlight travels through the planet's outer atmosphere.

These fingerprints allowed the team to extract the signatures from various elements and molecules – including water - and to distinguish between cloudy and cloud-free exoplanets, a property that could explain the missing water mystery.

The researcher's models showed that, while apparently cloud-free exoplanets showed strong signs of water, the atmospheres of those hot Jupiters with faint water signals also contained clouds and haze - both of which are known to hide water from view.

The findings were published in the journal Nature.

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