Telescope launch this fall could spot biosignatures on other planets within three days

Research shows that a new telescope could detect a potential signature of life on other planets in as little as 60 hours.

“What really surprised me about the results is that we could realistically find signs of life on other planets over the next 5-10 years,” said Caprice Phillips, graduate student at Ohio State University, which will share the preliminary results in a press conference during the April 2021 APS meeting.

Gaseous dwarf planets have the potential to promote life. But since none of these super-Earths or mini-Neptunes exist in our solar system, scientists are struggling to determine if their atmospheres contain ammonia and other potential signs of living things.

Phillips has calculated that when the James Webb Space Telescope launches in October, it could detect ammonia around six gaseous dwarf planets after just a few orbits.

She and her team modeled how JWST instruments would respond to variations in clouds and atmospheric conditions, then produced a ranked list of places the telescope should look for life.

Humanity has pondered the questions: ‘Are we alone? What is life? Does life elsewhere look like us? “Said Phillips.” My research suggests that for the first time we have the scientific knowledge and the technological capabilities to realistically begin to find the answers to these questions. “

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