Scientists look for new ways to Discover Life beyond EarthThe search for life on planets other than our own has been a long and continuing one. At first planets within our own solar system have been checked to see if they had life beyond earth or could in fact support life. Since then scientists have trained their sights on planets that revolve around stars other than our very own sun. Such planets are called exoplanets and with the developments in technology, scientists have found new methods and technologies that could help them detect life beyond earth.
Researchers around the globe have now given a roadmap to discovering life beyond earth which is documented in 5 papers published in a journal called Astrobiology. The papers detail how scientists can look for life beyond earth using telescopes.
Looking for life beyond our solar system:
The first exoplanet was found years ago in 1992 and since then the pace of discovering more exoplanets has increased drastically. At present at least 3,500 exoplanets have been discovered since the first in 1992.
Therefore steps were required to see if these planets and others like it could support life or maybe even have life beyond earth. Scientists around the world have been called in to share their knowledge and combine resources to aid in the search for life beyond earth.
NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) has done just that. The international network started three years ago, has got scientists from various disciplines to establish signs of life beyond earth as well as look for life on these exoplanets.
Results of NASA’s NExSS in discovering life beyond earth:
The work of NASA’s network is an ongoing effort of scientists and at present has resulted in papers detailing the past, present and future on how to look for life beyond earth. The papers are the work of scientists for over two years and consist of the work of scientists form various fields including astrophysics, biology, chemistry, heliophysics, planetary science and earth science. These papers formed what is contained in the astrobiology journal.
What does the astrobiology papers detail?
Besides detailing how to look for life beyond earth, these papers contain details of issues faced and how scientists are working to resolve them or have already resolved them.
Apart from this, the papers also contain details of two major signals that scientists look for when searching for life beyond earth. One has to do with looking for gases being produced on the exoplanet, such as oxygen, made either by plants or microbes. The second signal has to do with looking for the light reflected off of living beings for example the color of leaves.
Looking for mixed signals:
Researchers are also setting up signals to identify when an exoplanet actually has got life but shows no signs of it and vice versa.
There may be cases where oxygen maybe produced without the existence of life or there maybe cases where life exists on an exoplanet but without any biosignatures being given off from that planet.