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CosmosUp | August 18, 2019

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Why It's So Hard to Find ET

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Why It’s So Hard to Find ET

Hopes of finding evidence of life on far off alien worlds by studying their atmospheric chemistry have been dashed by a new study that concludes it’s almost impossible.

The study from the University of Toronto finds the method used to detect biosignatures on exoplanets can produce a false positive result.

The presence of multiple chemicals such as methane and oxygen in an exoplanet’s atmosphere is considered an example of evidence of past or present life. Rein’s team discovered that a lifeless planet with a lifeless moon can mimic the same results as a planet with such a biosignature.

“You wouldn’t be able to distinguish between them because they are so far away that you would see both in one spectrum,” Rein commented.

The resolution needed to identify a genuine biosignature from a false positive would be impossible to obtain even with telescopes available in the foreseeable future, he said.

  Rein added: “A telescope would need to be unrealistically large, something one hundred metres in size, and it would have to be built in space. This telescope does not exist, and there are no plans to build one anytime soon.”

Current methods can estimate the size and temperature of an exoplanet in order to determine whether liquid water could exist on the its surface, one of the criteria for a planet hosting the right conditions for life.

Many researchers use modelling to imagine the atmosphere of these planets, but they still can’t make conclusive observations, said Rein. “We can’t get an idea of what the atmosphere is actually like, not with the methods we have at our disposal.”

To date, 1,774 exoplanets have been confirmed to exist, and there could be more than 100 billion planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Despite the results, Rein is optimistic the search for life on planets outside our own is possible if done the right way.

“There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic that we will find hints of extraterrestrial life within the next few decades, just maybe not on an Earth-like planet around a Sun-like star.”



  1. Dr. Joe Ritter

    I disagree. The author is assuming spatial overlap requires large diameter to resolve to disambiguate star light and planet spectra. If you have a polarization sensitivity of 1 part in 10^5 one can distinguish polarized signals like scattered or optically pumped or glint light. Spatial disambiguation is a different story than using spectropolarimetry to disambiguate the planet and star light. We are building a 2 meter high contrast off axis a scope that can do this. See:

    • Vincent Bennett

      All those fancy words and telescopes are not needed anymore they have made the journey for us because they are here doc and I can prove it anytime anyone would like to know I’ll be waiting for the day that never comes because no one wants to know the truth but I got a gift that allows me to find them and they know I know so it hard to get the word out to the one person who will take what I got to the next level for the unveiling of what’s around you everyday and you never no it but I do I’ve learned a lot and well my world is a lot bigger now

  2. Vincent Bennett

    Because your all stupid I found them in my backyard I can prove it anytime the world would like to know the truth.I can show you things pictures and videos that show that their here and there not going away anytime soon emagine that one guy in Texas over a couple of months made the discovery that would change everything and no one wants to know the truth I’m not just telling you I can show you !!!!

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