a Way to Quickly Identify Planets with Oxygen
NASA | GSFC | USRA | JWST | 2020 Jan 06
Researchers may have found a way that NASA's James Webb Space Telescope can quickly identify nearby planets that could be promising for our search for life, as well as worlds that are uninhabitable because their oceans have vaporized.
- Conceptual image of water-bearing (left) and dry (right) exoplanets with oxygen-rich atmospheres. Crescents are other planets in the system, and the red sphere is the M-dwarf star around which the exoplanets orbit. The dry exoplanet is closer to the star, so the star appears larger. Credits: NASA/GSFC/Friedlander-Griswold
Since planets around other stars (exoplanets) are so far away, scientists cannot look for signs of life by visiting these distant worlds. Instead, they must use a cutting-edge telescope like Webb to see what's inside the atmospheres of exoplanets. One possible indication of life, or biosignature, is the presence of oxygen in an exoplanet’s atmosphere. Oxygen is generated by life on Earth when organisms such as plants, algae and cyanobacteria use photosynthesis to convert sunlight into chemical energy.
But what should Webb look for to determine if a planet has a lot of oxygen? In a new study, researchers identified a strong signal that oxygen molecules produce when they collide. Scientists say Webb has the potential to detect this signal in the atmospheres of exoplanets. ...
New Method to Detect Oxygen on Exoplanets
University of California, Riverside | 2020 Jan 06
Sensitive Probing of Exoplanetary Oxygen via Mid-Infrared Collisional Absorption ~ Thomas J. Fauchez et al
- Nature Astronomy (online 06 Jan 2020) DOI: 10.1038/s41550-019-0977-7