Artist concept of an array of flux collectors.
Credit: Copyright C. Göksu / University of Leiden

 

A possible design for the Terrestrial Planet Finder.
Credit: JPL/NASA

 

Artist’s conception of the European Extremely Large Telescope.
Credit: European Southern Observatory

 

Designing a Telescope to Detect Alien Life

Source: Leiden University press release

Alien Life
Posted: 02/19/13

Summary: Astronomers have published a new study that claims it could be possible to detect signs of extraterrestrial life within the next 25 years – and without the need for a space mission.

Astronomers from Leiden University and the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON) think it may be possible to detect signs of extraterrestrial life within the next 25 years, without the need for a space mission. Their article about this will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

New method

Astronomers have speculated for decades about how observations of exoplanets could provide proof of extraterrestrial life. They can already observe certain gases that are exhaled by organisms in the atmospheres of exoplanets, planets orbiting stars other than our sun. This idea, which has been around since the 1960s, has now been linked to a new observation method that uses relatively cheap flux collectors, large reflecting telescopes.

Research into the presence of oxygen

About 20% of the Earth’s atmosphere consists of oxygen. The gas is present because plants produce enormous quantities of it during photosynthesis. Without this biological activity, oxidation would soon cause all oxygen to disappear from our atmosphere. If oxygen were detected in the atmosphere of an Earth-like exoplanet, this could therefore be a first indication of extraterrestrial life.

Read more: Designing a Telescope to Detect Alien Life — Astrobiology Magazine.

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