There are about 300 million planets in the milky way galaxy that are potentially eligible for life.
According to an article published in the conversation, two astrobiologists claimed that upcoming telescopes such as James Webb will enable researchers to identify the chemical atmosphere’s composition of planets that orbit other stars.
These revolutionary telescopes and modern scientific techniques made Chris Impey and Daniel Apair argue that life is possible on planets other than planet earth. It is worth noting that our main guys are two university professors of astronomy and planetary sciences. They explained that these exoplanets seem to bear the biosignatures of life.
Living outside the blue planet is possible
Scientists point out that the existence of liquid water suggests the existence of life. With that being said, signs of life may be found in places such as Jupiter’s moon Europe and underneath mars, in its underground aquifers. Yet, getting to such places could be as hard as looking for life signs. For that, researchers find out that sending probes would help in collecting samples.
Many astronomy experts suppose that planets orbiting other stars are the most likely to have signs of life.
It is estimated that there are about 300 million planets in the milky galaxy that are potentially eligible for life. Some of them share some earthly criteria including size. Besides, they are considered to be our galactic neighbors as the distance between these planets and our earth planet is measured at almost 30 light years.
With the help of some indirect methods, astronomers were able to confirm more than 5,000 exoplanets. Hundreds of them are eligible for living. These techniques allowed researchers to capture the influence of the planet on its surrounding stars, as well as to determine the exoplanet’s data, including mass and size only.
The search for biosignatures
Scientists claim that detecting signs of life is based on examining the starlight’s interaction with the surface or the atmosphere of a planet. Any changes that occur, may show that the light contains “bio-signature”.
The detection of bio-signatures in the blue planet was extremely weak, especially in its first half. Researchers explained that the structure of the earth’s atmosphere; was based on a single-celled organism that is oxygen-free. However, with the emergence of an unprecedented algae family 2,4 billion years ago, the biosignatures have changed dramatically.
The algae depend on a mechanism called “photosynthesis” and it leads to the creation of free oxygen. The chemical composition of this oxygen is not bound to other elements, it is independent. Starting from that moment, the earth’s biosignature becomes recognizable, due to the light that is transmitted through the earth’s atmosphere which is rich with oxygen.
When light bounces off on certain wavelengths, in most cases, it would be trapped on the surface of that gas or material. And because every object traps a different light wavelength differently, objects would have different colors.
The green color of leaves is explained by its chemical composition of chlorophyll, in which its function is to absorb light consisting of red and blue wavelengths. In other words, the light absorbed by the chlorophyll in a leaf is the reason behind the reflection of the green color back into our eyes.
Similarly, when it comes to the astronomy of exoplanets, the interaction of a certain substance with light’s atmosphere and surface would identify the pattern of the light. And by observing the resulting color, researchers would gather more data about the atmosphere and the surface of that planet.
Gasses like oxygen and methane that are created by the light’s interaction are very helpful. Thank to them, it would be easier for astronomers to capture certain atmospheric gasses that are related to the existence of life signs. Besides they can use these observations to distinguish hues that are uncommon on a surface of a planet.
The chlorophyll found in plants and algae on the blue planet, for example, is used to collect specific light wavelengths. This technique enables them to perform photosynthesis.
Researchers use a sensitive infrared camera to detect colors that contain such pigments. Whenever this distinctive color is reflected on the surface of a certain planet, it is most probable that chlorophyll exists on that planet.
The James Webb Telescope is the only existing scientific instrument that enabled researchers to capture the smallest light frequencies in exoplanets.
This telescope was launched in July 2022. Once it is activated, it detects the spectrum of WASP-96b. But, although it contains water and clouds, it is not eligible for habitation because of its extremely hot weather and huge size.
Besides, the James Webb telescope can detect the sharp chemical composition of exoplanets.
After WASP-96b observations Webb’s telescope will be centered on TRAPPIST-le. This exoplanet is 39 light years far and has nearly the same size as planet earth.
Although James Webb was not designed to search for habitable planets, it can capture bio-signatures from the light reflected from the planet’s atmosphere. This applies when they pass in front of the stars they orbit. It really helps researchers to recognize any potentially livable planet. Some bios-signatures including carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor are detectable by this telescope. Yet, it can’t capture unbounded oxygen which is one of the most necessary signs that indicates life.
The upcoming telescope will block the light of the planet coming from its orbited star to give a clearer vision for the light to reflect. This can be compared to when we try to block the sun’s light to see properly.
The exterior shape of these telescopes is much a-like a giant umbrella. Or it could use some sort of mask that is internally installed in these instruments. By blocking the starlight, examining the light reflected from planets would be much easier.
Three huge telescopes are ground_ based; the Giant Magellan, the Thirty Meter, and the European Extremely Large Telescope. They aim to help astronomers capture bio-signatures. These high-performance telescopes can detect oxygen on neighboring planets although the atmosphere of the blue plant distorts the light coming from the sun.
At the end of this article do you really think that James Webb Space Telescope can help astronomers in the search for alien life? If yes, suggest us some creative names for future aliens. See you in Next Article