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Searching for life in the universe – The research team uses Earth as a test object

Searching for life in the universe – The research team uses Earth as a test object

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Swiss researchers are using Earth as a test object for a planned space mission. Their findings could advance the search for life on exoplanets.

Zurich – The Earth is a planet that harbors life – this is the result of a Swiss study. But the actual focus of the study lies elsewhere: a research team from ETH Zurich used Earth as a test object to check whether the planned space mission could actually achieve its purpose.

The mission in question is called LIFE (Large Interferometer for Exoplanet Scale). Their goal is to place five small satellites in space at the Lagrange point 2, which together form a large telescope, called an interferometer. This aims to capture and analyze thermal infrared radiation from exoplanets to see if life exists or could exist there.

The LiFE mission aims to search for life on exoplanets

The research team plans to examine the collected data to determine the composition of exoplanets and their atmospheres. Sascha Cowans, head of the LIFE initiative, explains in A notice: “Chemical compounds should be detected in the optical spectrum that indicate life on exoplanets.”

Instead of testing the performance of future LIFE satellites using simulated spectra, the research team used real data from the only planet known to have life so far – Earth. This data was provided by NASA's Aqua research satellite. From this data, the team produced mid-infrared emission spectra of Earth, similar to those expected to be collected in future observations of exoplanets.

The land is temperate and habitable

Study that In the specialized magazine Astrophysical Journal published Provides important insight: If the LIFE space telescope were to observe Earth from a distance of about 30 light-years, it could provide clues about the actual nature of our planet: Earth is temperate and habitable. The research team was able to detect concentrations of carbon dioxide, water, ozone and methane in the infrared spectra of the Earth's atmosphere.

Yes, there is life on Earth. This is what was shown by a Swiss study that tested whether a planned space mission to search for life in the universe would succeed. (Archive photo) © imago/UPI Photo

The discovery of methane and ozone indicates the existence of a biosphere on Earth that produces both gases. Indeed, “life” can define the existence of some form of life on Earth. In the future, this technology will be applied to other exoplanets in the hope of discovering habitable or even habitable exoplanets. “Our study shows that next-generation space missions can assess whether temperate Earth-like near-solar system exoplanets are habitable or even inhabited,” stresses Sascha Cowans. (unpaid bill)

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