Scientists at the University of California have announced they are developing the first a framework for dynamic bio-signatures, that is, a study of the biological products in the atmospheres of exoplanets.
This might not sound like much of a big deal but the scientists have said that this could eventually help us them find alien life forms on planets outside our solar system.
Bio-signatures are the atmospheric fingerprints of life and it's the "atmospheric seasonality" or changing of gases in their atmospheres that signal season changes like we have on Earth, is what could give away signs of alien life on other potentially habitable planets.
The University of California researchers said that the biological products in the atmospheres of these planets are detected using next-generation telescopes that measure the composition of gases surrounding planets that are light years away.
The lead author of the research paper, published today in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, is Stephanie Olson, a graduate student in UCR's Department of Earth Sciences. She explained that as Earth orbits the sun, its tilted axis means different regions receive more rays at different times of the year.
She added that the most visible signs of this phenomenon are changes in the weather and length of the days, but atmospheric composition is also impacted. For example, in the Northern Hemisphere, which contains most of the world's vegetation, plant growth in summer results in noticeably lower levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
"Atmospheric seasonality is a promising bio-signature because it is biologically modulated on Earth and is likely to occur on other inhabited worlds," Olson said.
"Inferring life based on seasonality wouldn't require a detailed understanding of alien biochemistry because it arises as a biological response to seasonal changes in the environment, rather than as a consequence of a specific biological activity that might be unique to the Earth."
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