Collision of Oxygen Molecules Could Signal Presence of Life

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Scientists have come up with a novel method that would discover oxygen in the atmospheres of exoplanets. This discovery might speed up the search for life in the space. Presence of oxygen in the atmosphere of an exoplanet is a possible indication of life that might have existed or exist. Oxygen is produced by life on planet earth.

Living beings such as cyanobacteria, algae, and plants utilize the process of photosynthesis to produce oxygen from sunlight. Scientists at the University of California, Riverside have come up with new techniques that will utilize James Webb Space Telescope of NASA. This telescope displays capability to detect a strong signal generated when oxygen molecules collide. Scientists, then, can make use of this signal to differentiate between non-living and living beings on a planet.

Highly Advanced Telescope to Assist in the Detection of Oxygen Concentration

Exoplanets orbit around other stars and not our sun, which is also a star. Scientists can’t look for life in these extremely distant planets. Instead, they make use of highly advanced telescope such as Webb to catch a glimpse of the atmosphere of these far off planets.

Thomas Fauchez is the lead author of this study and is with the Goddard Space Flight Center of NASA. Fauchez states that prior to their project, it was thought that similar levels of oxygen on Earth could not be detected. Nonetheless, knowledge of generation  of a particular signal during the collision of oxygen molecules is not new. The knowledge is since since 1980s from the atmospheric studies of the Earth. However, the knowledge remains unexamined for research on an exoplanet.

Edward Schwieterman is an astrobiologist from the University of California. He had proposed a similar method for the detection of the presence of a high concentration of oxygen from processes of non-living beings. He was a member of the team that came up with a similar technique.

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