The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life, Just got Easier

June 15, 2009

(ChattahBox)— The ongoing quest to discover signs of life in distant galaxies may now be easier, with a new scientific method of analyzing starlight passing through a planet’s atmosphere. The rays of light can reveal the presence of life through the detection of biological markers, which may someday lead to an “E.T.” moment.

Scientists from the Astrophysics Institute of the Canary Islands, recently conducted their experiment with light rays using the William Herschel Telescope. The astronomers evaluated moonlight passing through the Earth’s atmosphere during a lunar eclipse and discovered the presence of life-sustaining chemical markers, such as oxygen and water.

Analyzing a light spectrum during a lunar eclipse replicates similar conditions, as if viewing the Earth from far away as it moves in front of the Sun. The light passing through atmospheric layers is called a “transmission spectrum”

Now that the scientists have a picture of what Earth based life looks like through a transmission spectrum, they should be able to recognize signs of life on other planets, by examining light patterns and comparing the results to the Earth model.

Scientists are excited about utilizing this new research on future space missions to search the solar system for signs of extra-terrestrial life. An analysis of a planet’s light transmission spectrum may just lead the way someday, to our first interaction with alien life.

The full study is available in the Nature Journal.

Source


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