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back to article Exoplanets' chemicals may give false-positives for life, boffins say

Astronomers and exobiologists looking for spectral signatures as indicators of life might be chasing a chimera. That's the gloomy conclusion of a study published at PNAS, which says inferring the existence of biospheres on exoplanets “might be beyond our reach in the foreseeable future”. Since all we know about exoplanets is …

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Don't underestimate the power of human curiosity.

Once we do discover an exoplanet rich in oxygen and methane, I feel pretty sure it will pique the curiosity of some organization or country enough that they will devote the budget to make a massive array of space telescopes. Once we focus our attention on that area, we might also be able to spot other signs of life, by developing new techniques.

Call me a techno optimist, but it seems inevitable to me.

And it will change many things on this planet, when we do make that discovery.

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Childcatcher

Long Haul

So the only way to separate worlds with both methane and oxygen from those with a planet moon pair having this combination of atmospheres is to either wait until we develop the tech to tell the difference from here or to send probes for a closer look (or to do both)? OK, we know what we need to do. Let's get on with it! While we are at it, perhaps it would be a good idea to work out some consensus as to what to do when we actually find something.

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Fossil Fuel is Nuclear Waste

Hydrocarbons are a naturally occurring series of compounds that exist throughout the Universe. The Horsehead Nebula is full of Methane. Saturn's moon, Titan, has liquid Methane oceans, Methane clouds and frozen Methane ice caps, all with a maximum temperature of -100F. Titan NEVER had a dinosaur or a fern. On Earth, Hydrocarbons are produced by the heat and elemental atoms produced by the 2 million cubic miles of Uranium and Thorium that are melting the mantle. This process, and the repercussions for climate and energy, are explained in a series of articles under the Geo-nuclear tab at the Faux Science Slayer website.

Find and share Truth....it is your duty as an Earthling.

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Re: Fossil Fuel is Nuclear Waste

And speaking of Faux Science, how do you know that Titan NEVER had a dinosaur or a fern?

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Anonymous Coward

Leaving methane out of it, how are you going to get any oxygen-rich atmosphere without life being involved?

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> how are you going to get any oxygen-rich atmosphere without life

Heavy UV irradiation of the upper layer of the atmosphere of a hot "waterworld"?

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False false positive?

FTA: Science reminds us that light from Earth's oxygen-rich atmosphere would be contaminated to a distant observer if we were circled by Saturn's methane-rich moon Titan.

So the distant observer would incorrectly conclude that Earth harbors life. Hm..

Methane may be commonplace, but I've a hard time imagining a planet with significant amounts of free oxygen except by biological means -- and the combination methane-rich moon (or planet) and oxygen-rich planet (or moon) should be rare.

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Size does matter.

A roughly Earth-sized planet is less likely to have a Titan-sized moon. Earth-sized planets are most likely to have moons too small to hold onto any atmosphere. Just look at the planets and moons in our own solar systems to see this in action.

So, atmospheric light cross-contamination is unlikely for the sort of planets&moons we're most interested in.

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