The efforts to detect a biosignature from a distant exo-planet hinge on efforts by researchers to understand how life may have originated.
IN THE BEGINNING . . . ?
- Firstly, carbon (to the best of our knowledge) is the only stuff of life and it will form the largest tally of stable molecules. Secondly, water is a universal solvent; it allows life’s stuff to proliferate. Water is particularly good for the CHNOPS paradigm; it gives carbon-based life the largest amount of thermodynamic latitude. And, the formation of hydrogen bonds (a weak but stabilizing force) is possibly the best argument for the presence of water. So, the aforementioned considerations are dependent upon beliefs that life’s signature may be similar to our own throughout the Universe. If one believes that notion, based upon current astronomical data, then we do have a very large haystack to search.
- Detecting a biosignature from a distant exo-planet is a difficult task, and with the current pace of technology, the detection of a definitive biosignature may not arrive for at least several years.
CAN WE DETECT THE MEAGEREST BIOSIGNATURE IN OUR OWN SOLAR SYSTEM . . .?
- Current efforts to detect an extra-biosignature have found none. There are a lot of “teasers” within our own solar system, but alas, nothing has been found.
STATE OF CURRENT TECHNOLOGY . . . YES IT IS PROMISING . . ., AND WE HAVE MADE GREAT STRIDES IN LEARNING OF OUR OWN PLACE IN THE COSMOS . . .
- When one addresses our progress, it is promising, but lagging due to budgetary constraints. However, we are on track to learn how and why our Solar System is special .
By studying extra-solar systems, we are learning much in terms of why and how our place is truly significant. One fascinating instance is system in Fomalhaut.
Fomalhaut can be found in the Southern hemisphere—and the Hubble telescope successfully imaged the Fomalhaut b in 2008. Since the original discovery, much has been learned of the Fomalhaut system.
Illustration Credit: NASA, ESA and A. Feild (STScI)
Fig. 2 Source: via Wikipedia– Atacama Large Millimeter Array
Original author:ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO). Visible light image: the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Acknowledgement: A.C. Boley (University of Florida, Sagan Fellow), M.J. Payne, E.B. Ford, M. Shabran (University of Florida), S. Corder (North American ALMA Science Center, National Radio Astronomy Observatory), and W. Dent (ALMA, Chile), P. Kalas, J. Graham, E. Chiang, E. Kite (University of California, Berkeley), M. Clampin (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), M. Fitzgerald (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), and K. Stapelfeldt and J. Krist (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
This false-color composite image, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, reveals the orbital motion of the planet Fomalhaut b. Based on these observations, astronomers calculated that the planet is in a 2,000-year-long, highly elliptical orbit. The planet will appear to cross a vast belt of debris around the star roughly 20 years from now. If the planet’s orbit lies in the same plane with the belt, icy and rocky debris in the belt could crash into the planet’s atmosphere and produce various phenomena. The black circle at the center of the image blocks out the light from the bright star, allowing reflected light from the belt and planet to be photographed. The Hubble images were taken with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph in 2010 and 2012. Credit: NASA, ESA, and P. Kalas (University of California, Berkeley and SETI Institute)
In the next post, I will attempt to speak more of current techniques and advances to look for in future missions.