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The trail followed by the James Webb Space Telescope to discover life on other planets

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The trail followed by the James Webb Space Telescope to discover life on other planets

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has made a groundbreaking discovery in its search for extraterrestrial life forms on distant worlds. Scientists have identified a chemical formula that could indicate which exoplanets have a high chance of being habitable.

A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Birmingham propose that the absence of carbon dioxide in a terrestrial planet’s atmosphere compared to other planets in the same system could be a sign of liquid water and potentially life on the surface. This new signal, of relatively depleted carbon dioxide, is believed to be the only detectable sign of habitability with current technology.

Astronomer Julien de Wit, co-author of the study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, explained, “The Holy Grail in exoplanet science is searching for habitable worlds and the presence of life. Now we have a way to find out if there is liquid water on another planet, something we can achieve in the coming years.”

However, astronomer Claudio Martínez noted that while a decrease in carbon dioxide could suggest the presence of water and potential life, it does not definitively confirm the existence of life on a distant planet. The James Webb Space Telescope can detect these drops in carbon dioxide, indicating the potential existence of water, but more research is needed to confirm the presence of life.

The team’s strategy involves searching for signs of depleted carbon dioxide to identify habitable planets in multiplanetary systems similar to our own Solar System. The next step would be to measure the carbon dioxide content in the atmospheres of these planets to determine if one has significantly less than the others, indicating potential habitability.

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The team also suggests looking for ozone in a planet’s atmosphere as an additional indicator of habitability and potential life. If a planet’s atmosphere shows signs of both ozone and depleted carbon dioxide, it is likely a habitable, inhabited world.

With the James Webb Space Telescope, researchers believe they could measure carbon dioxide and ozone in nearby multiplanetary systems, such as TRAPPIST-1, to further investigate the potential habitability of exoplanets. The possibilities for discovering habitable planets and potential life forms are expanding, offering new insights into the search for extraterrestrial life beyond our Solar System.

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