Research is ongoing. Tirelessly. But scientists still haven’t found any traces of life anywhere else in the universe. For now, anyway. Therefore, great hopes are pinned on the Webb Space Telescope. In fact, this will open access to important information about the atmospheres of exoplanets. And researchers are now clarifying under what circumstances the detection of methane can be considered a convincing sign of life.
Methane. With the chemical formula CH4. It’s powerful. Which we may soon have to hunt. Just like we’re already chasing (CO2). To limit anthropogenic. But (USA), methane is offered to hunt in a completely different place than the atmosphere of our Earth and for a completely different reason. Because in exoplanets, this could mean the presence of extraterrestrial life forms.
in– a sign that some form of life has passed. That especially interested in it today. Because it could be detected in the atmosphere of some exoplanets thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). But be careful! Methane can indeed be released as a result of non-biological processes.
In anticipation of the first observations of JWST, the researchers studied this issue. Following their reasoning, it should be remembered that methane does not stay long in the atmosphere. In just a few years it was destroyed. Thus, the only explanation for detecting some amount of methane in the atmosphere is the presence of a source that emits it more or less continuously.
Biosignature or not, the main thing is not to make a mistake
And it is possible that non-biological sources also emit a lot of methane. Fromreactions occurring, for example, in environments such as mid-ocean ridges, hydrothermal vents or areas tectonics or impact or . But now researchers at the University of California suggest that these sources will then inevitably generate other observable clues in parallel that give away the origin of all this CH.4. in volcanoes, for example, would add methane and carbon to a rocky exoplanet’s atmosphere. (CO). What biological sources would not do.
Thus, according to astronomers, if methane can provide an important clue, it remains just a simple piece of the puzzle.. A study published in (USA) offers some recommendations to avoid “false positives”. To also prevent researchers from unfortunately missing out on the real biosignature.
For example, onin around a star like ours methane can begin to form a reliable biosignature if said planet’s atmosphere also contains CO2 and if CH4 much more than CO. But in extraterrestrial atmospheres still have a lot to learn. And researchers at the University of California are calling for more work on the subject. Research that could analyze even the most unusual mechanisms of non-biological methane production. To avoid, as far as possible, errors in the interpretation of the results, which may soon be transmitted .