Advertisement

Scientists Check Whether Space Telescope Could Detect Life on Earth

Planet Here

We have some truly epic news.

There is indeed life on Earth.

A team of American and European scientists have confirmed this not-so-surprising observation after they simulated the workings of a proposed space telescope, and then focused the telescope on Earth, treating it like a distant exoplanet to see if the instrument could pick up evidence of life.

In this kind-of-round-about way, the scientists can estimate the future performance of the space telescope, called LIFE or Large Interferometer For Exoplanets, when it's deployed into space to search for exoplanets that are similar to our own.

The scientists detailed the findings in a study published in The Astronomical Journal. Currently, there is no exact date when the LIFE telescope — being overseen by the Swiss university ETH Zürich — would start getting built, but this paper at least shows that its ambitions are viable.

Life Signs

The scientists created a synthetic version of Earth and had a simulated version of the telescope examine it for "biosignatures," or chemicals in the atmosphere that would indicate life such as nitrous oxide and methylated halogens.

"[T]hese biogenic gases is most consistent with a productive global photosynthetic biosphere," the scientists write.

The LIFE telescope, which would actually be made up of five satellites working in tandem, would operate by picking up infrared radiation in exoplanets' atmosphere. From this raw data, scientists hope they'd be able to calculate the chemical composition of the exoplanets' atmosphere.

The ultimate goal of the ambitious project is to study in further detail 30 to 50 exoplanets that are of similar size to Earth and see if there's is any glimmer of life in their atmospheres. Astronomers will be focusing their search on systems that are at most 65 light years away from us.

If LIFE is indeed deployed, it may go a long way towards answering one of the universe's biggest mysteries: are we alone?

More on space telescopes: James Webb Spots "Extremely Red" Black Hole