NASA outlines hunt for extraterrestrial life
September 12, 2014 | 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.
| Comments (46)
Unexplained Mysteries is now on Patreon!
Click here to learn more
about how you can help support the site and gain access to a range of perks including a subscriber badge, ad-free browsing, an exclusive
weekly newsletter, sneak peaks of upcoming features and more.
We are 92% of the way to our second Patreon subscriber target - thank you!