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New Tool Could Help Spot Alien Life

RATE THIS! +23
Posted in Science on 11th Mar, 2014 12:59 AM by AlexMuller

Earth’s atmosphere is heavy, it’s what keeps water from flying off into space. So astronomers looking for alien worlds that can harbor life have also been looking for heavy atmospheres. Now, they’ve found a way to gauge the atmospheric pressure of distant planets using molecules that couple up to form larger molecules called dimers, in this case, two oxygen molecules.

 

When a planet passes in front of its star, starlight shines through the planet’s atmosphere and continues through space until it reaches us. Dimers in the atmosphere absorb light like a color filter on a camera lens, creating anomalies detectable once the pressure of the planet is at least 0.25 bars, high enough to hold down liquid water.

 

To gauge the pressure of the planet, researchers will measure the strength of the signals using the new James Webb Space Telescope once it comes online in 2018. But the signals are also detectable only if the atmosphere is well oxygenated, and the only way scientists know how to make an oxygenated atmosphere is with photosynthetic life.

 

If scientists find oxygen dimers on a planet, they may have not only found a world with water we can drink and air we can breathe, but also a living world. For now, though, the pressure is on to launch the James Webb Space Telescope into orbit.


Tags: spaceexoplanetsJames Webbalienslifeastronomy

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Comments

Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-03-11
+1
This could be a helpful test for water and possibly also life on another planets - combined with other tests could make the search go faster Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-03-11
+3
Water is one important factor. We should make a distinction between some life forms existing on other planets and the possibility that humans could live on such planets. "For humans to be transported from Earth to a planet in another solar system would entail more problems than merely finding water. There are innumerable necessities for human life to last, even for minutes much less for years, that have to be and remain within very narrow bands." Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-03-11
+2
This approach of testing oxygen dimers could be combined with other observations and modelling. Recently, one article described that Earth-sized planets can support life at least ten times farther away from stars than previously thought when taking into consideration life living deep below the ground.
3 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-03-11
+2
The possibility that life can exist below surface should be taken into account, just as these researchers did. The possibility that in future explorations some kind of life forms will be found are increasing- very exciting Reply
Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-03-11
+0
Perhaps a recent report that on Mars there is water right now should encourage us to look for life there first. Finding further evidence that there is water on Mars would be an enormous boost for exploration and colonisation. Everyone believes that water was there once upon a time but finding it now would be a great resource - we have to wait and see
1 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-03-11
+0
For many finding water also supports the possibility that life existed on Mars or if they find some now- that it actually supports it now. Exciting! Reply
Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2016-05-06
+0
Pride, one thing everyone has to some degree whether or not all of us feel we all do or oteswrihe not. Provided that we are man the actual pride brain all of us regard as pride will almost certainly stand out. Thanks for the exciting posting. Reply


 

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