The quest for extraterrestrial life is far from being an easy one, but researchers might have found a way to filter their results. Since there are hundreds of exoplanets that might host life, they concluded it might be easier to find aliens if they looked at the seasonal changes occurring in their atmosphere.
Seasonal changes might highlight biosignatures in the atmosphere
Finding life on habitable exoplanets might be possible if we sent manned missions on them and studied their surface. However, this is impossible, so researchers came up with the idea of just studying their atmosphere. Any kind of biological life leaves some traces in the atmosphere of planets it populates. The traces, called biosignatures, can be studied by using some advanced telescopes.
However, if you perform a one-time study on these biosignatures, the results might not be the most accurate. Therefore, researchers hopped on a really ambitious project. They are going to look at Earth’s seasonal changes and the biosignature shift throughout a year. Then, they will make the same studies on the exoplanets, and make a correlation between them and our planet.
Studying the atmosphere of exoplanets might signal the presence of life
Some of these sudden changes are hard to occur if there’s no life present on the respective planet. However, if researchers could identify them, we might progress a lot in the quest for life. Instead of only identifying life on an exoplanet, they might be able to insert it into a specific category.
Seasonal changes are perceived at the surface level, but it’s quite easy to observe them in the atmosphere as well. Here’s how it works for Earth. Most of the vegetation lies in the northern hemisphere. During summer, this vegetation is flourishing, so it starts leaving traces on the atmosphere as follows. The carbon dioxide levels get extremely low during this time of the year, while the oxygen ones get higher.
Therefore, noticing similar chemical shifts in the atmosphere of an exoplanet might indicate the presence of life. However, researchers should be careful. There might be plenty of oxygen in an atmosphere without life being present on it. The study on seasonal changes and biosignatures was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
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