Dying Planets May Hold Our Best Bet Of Finding Alien Life
Scientists are constantly coming up with the next best tip for finding signs of alien life, whether it be looking for gas signatures, or laser beams, but a team from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland may have just come up with the most depressingly ironic suggestion to date. According to Astrobiologist Jack O'Malley-James and his team, looking for life on dying exoplanets may yield positive results.
As a planet reaches its golden years, its atmosphere undergoes significant changes as it slowly breaks down. These changes will inevitably spell the end for whichever alien species happen to exist at that time and as these species die out, their decaying remains may release gases into the atmosphere. It is these gases and their interaction with sunlight that could act as a detectable biosignature, potentially tipping us off to the existence of life on that planet long after it has ceased to be.
"Astrobiology as a field seems to put a lot of focus on the origins of life and how to find life beyond Earth, but less emphasis is put on the end of life, which is what got me interested in how biospheres on other planets meet their ends, and by extension, how long we could expect to detect life on a habitable planet over the course of its habitable lifetime."said O'Malley-James of the study.
Of course, this is not our only hope of detecting alien life, merely one end of the spectrum. The other end of said spectrum would be catching the influence of alien life on a planet as its level of civilization peaked. This could come in the form of of anything from the warming of an atmosphere as is currently occurring on Earth, to less subtle signs of life such as a planet being moved to a cooler orbit to accommodate a dying and expanding star.
So it would seem that with every new study on the hunt for extraterrestrial life, we are given a new avenue to explore and with each new avenue we explore, the question about extraterrestrial life increasingly becomes "When will we find it?" and not "Will we find it?". This being said, it would certainly be ironic if our first confirmed discovery of alien life came from biosignatures of its demise, but heck it would be better than nothing.
For more information on the findings coming out of St.Andrews university, visit: