Fingerprints Of Miracle Life Beyond Earth

Fingerprints Of Miracle Life Beyond Earth

You can imagine that I spend a lot of time thinking about them, because it’s my job to discover aliens, visualizing small green women travelling to work with their buddies. And it makes me wonder if alien astronomers are looking for us in their night sky. If these alien astronomers had gazed in our direction in the previous century, they would have been ecstatic to find unmistakable indicators of technological advancement. But what if they went back ten thousand years, before humanity began to exhibit indications of civilization? Would they shrug their shoulders and go on in search of a better life? No, and we shouldn’t either. Related – We are not alone in the galaxy – Secret life search.

We might instead search for other indicators of life. If those extraterrestrial astronomers had peered our way 10,000 years ago, they could have noticed that, despite the lack of traces of civilization, we still appeared odd. We have a thick and temperate atmosphere, for starters, but we also have curiously enormous concentrations of oxygen in the atmosphere. Because the makeup of the Earth’s atmosphere can only be sustained through a biological cycle, this would be a very positive indicator of life for my alien friends. Is it possible for us to do the same to them? I’m giving it my all. I’m a quantum astrochemist, which means I research quantum interactions in space between molecules and light.

Invisible Life

These molecules, as well as the planets on which they exist, are invisible to us. However, when life from a star passes through an extraterrestrial environment, each molecule leaves a distinct fingerprint in the starlight, which I can see from here. I also seek for biosignatures, or fingerprints, of chemicals that may be linked to life, such as complex toxins or oxygen. Although oxygen is a beautiful biosignature in the context of Earth, it is not difficult to produce.

So, if our sun emitted differing levels of radiation or our seas evaporated due to a runaway greenhouse effect, vast amounts of oxygen might collect in our atmosphere without biology, and oxygen would be a false positive for life. So, if oxygen isn’t the key to discovering life beyond Earth, but then what is? Because they’re so difficult to manufacture that they’re seldom made spontaneously, my expertise is looking for odd compounds with fewer false positives for life. Phosphine is my favorite of those odd compounds. Related – The amazing science behind wormholes – new view.

People didn’t conceive about phosphine as a biosignature until approximately a decade ago, when I first started working on it. Instead, it was recognized as a horrible, foul-smelling chemical that interferes with life’s capacity to use oxygen, making it a deadly murderer. Because of its lethal interaction with oxygen metabolism, phosphine is commonly utilized as a pesticide, and unfortunately, it has also been used in chemical warfare on several occasions. Phosphine can be created in the lab, as well as in the harsh circumstances found inside gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn. On rocky planets like Earth, however, it is seldom formed by chance.

As a result, we don’t anticipate to find phosphine on Earth. Nonetheless, we do. We find it in little amounts all throughout the world, and in certain locations in very big numbers, such as marshes, rice fields, lake bottoms, and most animals’ waste and guts. And because all of these habitats are home to creatures that aren’t oxygen-dependent, phosphine has no effect on them. In fact, phosphine appears to be synthesized safely and enthusiastically in all of these oxygen-deficient habitats.

Find Phosphine

So I reasoned that other worlds with life that isn’t as dependant on oxygen as ours may have phosphine, but as a very common biosignature. The best part about phosphine is this. It has nearly no false positives for life on rocky worlds like Earth since it is so difficult to create. So I started thinking about what kind of telescopes we’d need to discover phosphine on planets in our galaxy’s vicinity. Because I anticipated that if we did, it would only bring death.

I imagined a faraway planet with an oxygen-poor tropical paradise and a phosphine-rich ecosystem that we might be able to discover one day. But it turns out that phosphine was a bit more interesting than I had anticipated, since a few months after I finished this project, an astronomer named Jane Greaves contacted me, seeking for help deciphering a white telescope signal.

Then, a few months later, another signal appeared, this time in orange, that seemed to imply that phosphine may be present on Venus’ clouds, not on a faraway planet, but just next door. So, did we succeed? Have we discovered life on other planets? We have no idea. We still need to validate if the signal is real, and if it is, that it isn’t another molecule imitating phosphine’s fingerprint. These Venus observations were noisy and preliminary, so we need to be sure it’s not another molecule imitating phosphine’s fingerprint. Read – How to your brain invents mind “Self”- Professor Anil Seth’s explanation.

Even if it’s unmistakably phosphine, we still need to figure out what or who’s creating it, because it’s possible that the presence of phosphine on a planet like Venus is best explained by life. But it’s possible that I’m mistaken, and there’s a novel, non-biological technique to make phosphine that no one has thought of yet. In any case, as much as I adore phosphine, I don’t believe we’ll discover life that way. Life will almost certainly not be detected by a single molecule. Regardless of how unique it is.

Finding Life

We’ll need to see an entire biosphere emitting a complicated network of chemicals that, when combined, convey the message “We’re alive!” As the tale of Venus indicates, finding life will be difficult, but Venus is the ideal laboratory for us to test our hypotheses about biospheres and how to interpret them. Whether we learn to grasp Venus’ atmosphere and the message it holds, we may go there and check to see if we were correct. That’s what we’ll do at the end of the decade. But this isn’t the last time a biosignature has been discovered on a possibly livable planet, and we won’t be able to travel there and check next time.

So my main fear isn’t that we won’t find a livable planet during our lifetimes. My biggest fear is that we’ll accidentally point our pricey telescopes onto an inhabited planet without realizing it. But I’m determined not to lose out on life. Read -How to community creates a healthy life.

So, yeah, I’ll hunt for unmistakable but improbable evidence of technology, such as complicated pollutants. I’ll also be on the lookout for the pleasant and familiar but sometimes deceptive signals of life, such as oxygen. And, of course, I’ll continue to seek for unusual and frightening biosignatures like phosphine. But, most importantly, I’ll seek for all of the molecules that can work together to provide a complete image of a biosphere. All of this is done in the hopes that one day we will recognize life when we see it. Thank you.

Article based on Research scientist – Clara Sousa-Silva’s Speech.

HowNHowTo.Com Team

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