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Proposed Indicator of Life On Alien Worlds May Be Bogus 112

sciencehabit (1205606) writes with bad news for anyone hoping to use the spectral signatures of exoplanets to determine if their atmospheres have life-enabling compositions. "Call it the cosmic version of fool's gold. What was once considered a sure-fire sign of life on distant planets may not be so sure-fire after all, a new study suggests. The signal—a strong chemical imbalance in the planet's atmosphere that could only be generated by thriving ecosystems—could instead be the combined light from a lifeless exoplanet and its equally barren moon."
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Proposed Indicator of Life On Alien Worlds May Be Bogus

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  • No big deal (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TrollstonButterbeans ( 2914995 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:19PM (#46864413)
    If we found an exoplanet with signatures that suggested the atmosphere might support life, billions and billions of astronomers would be analyzing light/gravity/etc from every possible angle.

    So it isn't like it wouldn't get unprecedented peer review (remember how initial lander photos of Mars showed a blue sky, as an example).
  • Lessons from Mars (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:38PM (#46864519) Journal

    I don't think we could know up front what good life indicators are. Basically we see if anything looks odd or promising, form theories, and investigate more to strengthen or falsify such theories with new data and tests.

    Mars' goofy and teasing soil and rock chemistry* should have taught us that searching for life is likely a long and winding road (barring a direct landing party with a big lab).

    * This includes seasonal changes that looked like vegetation seasons to early telescopes (turned out to be seasonal dust patterns), Viking's "positive" results, the "magnetic worm" meteorite, methane detection, etc. Bill Clinton even jumped the gun with a "life!" press release.

  • Re:hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:56PM (#46864619) Journal
    I for one, am buoyed by the likelihood there is less chance of life elsewhere in the Universe.

    As an earthling (a clumsy term for our planetary residents at best), any information that suggests we are farther along the great filter than probability would dare suggest is welcome news.

    If there is no other life in our perceivable light cone, we just might be the universe's best shot at a colonizing species!

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday April 28, 2014 @09:18PM (#46864715) Journal

    We will NEVER be able to get there, or ever hope to even send something there

    "640 lightyears ought to be enough to keep away anyone!" - Billeep Gatezog

    Seriously, a multi-generational nuclear powered colony or unmanned space probe going roughly 1% to 10% of the speed of light is not completely outside of possibilities. Arguably we could build and launch such now if we had 50 trillion or so dollars to blow. That's what, 20 years worth of world-wide military budgets?

    Maybe someday fairly soon the Mormons or a new cult will try such. Since it's not gov't funded, they can accept more risk to keep it cheaper.

Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous