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Extraterrestrial

Possible evidence of life discovered in exoplanet's atmosphere

By T.K. Randall
September 13, 2023 · Comment icon 14 comments



An artist's impression of K2-18b. Image Credit: NASA
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has detected potential evidence of life in a planet 120 light years away.
Before the next-generation telescope launched we often remarked that it would be exciting to see what it would be able to pick up in the atmospheres of distant planets and now, with the James Webb fully operational in orbit, such a moment has finally arrived with the detection of potential evidence of life in the atmosphere of an extrasolar world situated approximately 120 light years from Earth.

This evidence comes in the form of carbon dioxide, methane and a molecule known as dimethyl sulphide (DMS) which, on our own planet, is only produced by life forms.

"On Earth, DMS is only produced by life," said the University of Cambridge's Prof Nikku Madhusudhan who headed up the research.

"The bulk of it in Earth's atmosphere is emitted from phytoplankton in marine environments."

The planet in question - K2-18b - is quite large at around 9 times the size of the Earth and is situated in its star's habitable zone - the region in which liquid water could potentially exist on its surface.
Despite the promising findings, however, it's important to emphasize that this detection is only tentative at the moment and further research will be needed to confirm the discovery.

"If confirmed, it would be a huge deal and I feel a responsibility to get this right if we are making such a big claim," said Madhusudhan .

Whatever the case, the find represents another step toward confirming the existence of alien life.

"We are slowly moving towards the point where we will be able to answer that big question as to whether we are alone in the universe or not," said Dr Robert Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society in London.

"I'm optimistic that we will one day find signs of life. Perhaps it will be this, perhaps in 10 or even 50 years we will have evidence that is so compelling that it is the best explanation."

Source: BBC News | Comments (14)




Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #5 Posted by NCC1701 13 days ago
I love the smell of dimethyl sulphide when walking along the beach.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Hankenhunter 13 days ago
Dimethyl†sulphide? So they detected farts? No, that was you. Ease off on the Mexican food.
Comment icon #7 Posted by rjos 13 days ago
I'd love to know how they can identify a molecule from 120 Light years away.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 13 days ago
Amazingly the same way it is identified on Earth, spectroscopy. Each molecule absorbs or emits light in a series of distinct wavelengths. It is as unique to each molecule as a fingerprint is to a person. When light from a star shines through a planet's atmosphere molecules in the atmosphere absorb the light in these distinct wavelengths. By taking a spectrum of the star, and a spectrum of the star light passing through the planetary atmosphere it is possible to deduct one from the other and deduce which molecules are present in the atmosphere.†
Comment icon #9 Posted by josellama2000 13 days ago
Now they cant detect that guy that loves tacos from far away in wherever planet he is... †
Comment icon #10 Posted by Roshman 12 days ago
Life could have arrived on Earth from elsewhere.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Cho Jinn 9 days ago
No it could not have.† There is no flying saucer in my driveway, ergo, there are no aliens anywhere and none have ever visited Earth at any time. The absence of evidence is evidence of absence!† Iš! Richard Dawkins!† #skepticism
Comment icon #12 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 8 days ago
Wow, what an incredibly ignorant post on so many levels. It shows a total lack of knowledge (or an inability to understand) all of the following: Scientific method Basic logic The panspermia hypothesis Simple English comprehension No one mentioned flying saucers and so your comment constitutes a straw man argument, and so can be dismissed outright as a logical fallacy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man † The actual quote is: So we either have a colossal failure to understand a very simple concept or an out and out attempt at dishonesty: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2019/09/17/absence/ †... [More]
Comment icon #13 Posted by Cho Jinn 8 days ago
You forgot the paean to Shub Niggurath.† I agree with you, my comment was just satirical, and humor (sp.) is rather subjective.
Comment icon #14 Posted by josellama2000 19 hours ago
exactly, using†panspermia as an argument, without explaining how life appears outside earth, is a fallacy similar to the Zeno's paradox, like Achilles and the tower of tortoises.


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