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Extraterrestrial

NASA outlines hunt for extraterrestrial life

September 12, 2014 | Comment icon 46 comments



Finding evidence of life is a complex process. Image Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech
The space agency has used new simulations to determine how best to identify a life-bearing world.
Researchers at NASA's Virtual Planetary Laboratory have been successful in accurately simulating the atmospheric chemistry of extrasolar planets in an effort to better understand the chemical compositions that would indicate the presence of life.

Now thanks to these findings they have been able to reveal the best way to determine whether or not the presence of a gas such as methane means that a planet could have life on it.

"When we ran these calculations, we found that in some cases, there was a significant amount of ozone that built up in the atmosphere, despite there not being any oxygen flowing into the atmosphere," said NASA's Shawn Domagal-Goldman.
"This has important implications for our future plans to look for life beyond Earth."

The researchers concluded that it isn't enough to rely on the detection of just one key gas in the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet as there are too many non-biological processes that could give rise to them. Instead, they argue, to identify a planet as a potential habitat for life there need to be indications of at least two of these gases present in its atmosphere.

"Our research strengthens the argument that methane and oxygen together, or methane and ozone together, are still strong signatures of life," said Domagal-Goldman.

Source: Phys.org | Comments (46)



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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #37 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 7 years ago
Good analogy Waspie_Dwarf, but I still have a feeling that taniwha won't admit to making a mistake. He seems to be incapable of that. Trying to explain statistics to him made me think of the following quote from Top Gear: "I can't dumb it down to your level, because i'm scared of hights" James May to Jeremy Clarkson.
Comment icon #38 Posted by taniwha 7 years ago
Well all i can say Waspie is that you are right but you have misunderstood what i am meaning. If we apply 'Waspie logic' it would mean that we would have to search for life on Mars until it is found, even if it takes billions of years of negative results. We would have to peel back the layers of the planet one by one and leave no speck of dust unanalysed before we can truly say, there is NO life on Mars. Problem is life would probably have arisen well before a negative result can be confirmed. At what point can you say life DOESNT exist on a planet? Cant you see the obvious paradox being illum... [More]
Comment icon #39 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
Well all i can say Waspie is that you are right Wow, a half addmissiin. It's a shame you can't find the humility and honesty to admit you are wrong instead of inflicting more crap you have made up on us. but you have misunderstood what i am meaning. That's not difficult as your posts are almost always meaningless drivel. If we apply 'Waspie logic' it would mean that we would have to search for life on Mars until it is found, That's how it works. If you are looking for something you continue to look for something until you find it. if you stop before you have found it you will never know it is ... [More]
Comment icon #40 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
...continued from above A better analogy is roulette with a gun that is possibly loaded or possibly unloaded. I made that analogy so simple I thought even my cat could understand it. It went right over your head. Now put the gun to your head. Are you foolish enough to continue? Re-read my analogy, I've tried not to use too many big words. Notice I talk about the situation where the gun is loaded and where it isn't. How is that different from what you are saying? You seem to have totally failed to understand the analogy. You are presenting exactly the SAME analogy and claiming it is better. Unb... [More]
Comment icon #41 Posted by taniwha 7 years ago
I made that analogy so simple I thought even my cat could understand it. It went right over your head. Congratulations. But the simplest odds is the one where there is only two possible outcomes. That means a 50/50 chance. Re-read my analogy, I've tried not to use too many big words. Notice I talk about the situation where the gun is loaded and where it isn't. How is that different from what you are saying? What im saying is that a better analogy is this: 1st possibility, the gun is completely loaded or second possibility, the gun is completely empty. There is no 3rd possibility to consider. O... [More]
Comment icon #42 Posted by Lilly 7 years ago
*Sigh* You simply can't calculate the odds for anything with one data point...you just can't...no way....not possible. Not 50/50, not 40/60, not 30/70, not 20/80...it's just not possible. Honestly, this isn't a difficult concept.
Comment icon #43 Posted by taniwha 7 years ago
It was after all only a hypothetical scenario Lilly. Though i know what i mean i had a lousy time trying to convince anyone of it Some things will always remain unknown so moving on, the whole point being missed is that it is extremely unlikely that the entire population of life in the universe is centred on a small earthen planet because the energy that created it to begin with is as common as mud. Lets imagine realistically for a second that we dont have forever to search every single planet or moon in the universe, does it make sense to narrow the search or not? Yes it does. We can reduce t... [More]
Comment icon #44 Posted by markprice 7 years ago
People often ask this question but, in the context of the search for life on other planets, it's largely irrelevant. You can't look for forms of life you don't know exist because you don't know what would constitute a positive result. If you go searching for something but you don't know what it looks like, how would you know when you found it? Therefore we are restricted to looking for forms of life we do know exists. This makes me think of the story of the guy looking for his keys under a streetlight. Someone walks by and says, "Where exactly did you drop them?" He answers: "Over there in tha... [More]
Comment icon #45 Posted by taniwha 7 years ago
This makes me think of the story of the guy looking for his keys under a streetlight. Someone walks by and says, "Where exactly did you drop them?" He answers: "Over there in that dark ally." "Then why are you looking for them here?" "The light is better here." I agree we should waste no time searching the sun for life or the void of space for life or atmospereless moons or blackholes or wormholes or other dimensions - at least not yet. We have to keep it real. This: NASA has discovered a new life form, a bacteria called GFAJ-1 that is unlike anything currently living in planet Earth. It's cap... [More]
Comment icon #46 Posted by David-C 7 years ago
Only if the chances are 1 in a billion PER galaxy would your figures be right. If we are 1 in a billion there should be 100-400 of us in our galaxy alone (assuming one chance per star), that's 10-40 trillion of us in the universe. For there to be only one of us per galaxy the odds would have to be 1 in 1x1024. The thing is that it doesn't matter what odds you pick, we don't know the actual answer. I was just going with the long shot odds. I guess what I was getting at in a "around the bush" kind of way is even though we don't know for sure, it's highly unlikely that we are alone. And who knows... [More]


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