We’re creating alien atmospheres in a lab to see how likely we are to find aliens


Because E.T. he will not call home soon, the last way to determine if there can be life (at least life as we know it) in distant exoplanets has just come out of a laboratory.

Atmospheric haze may be able to tell us how likely it is that we can find organisms that crawl on a planet besides the earth. The badistant professor of terrestrial and planetary sciences at Johns Hopkins University Sarah Hörst and her colleagues recently conducted a study, published in Nature Astronomy that simulated the atmospheres of distant worlds and could indicate whether or not they were spawning life. 19659002] "One of the reasons we are starting to do this work is to understand if having a layer of haze on these planets would make them more or less habitable," Hörst said.

Even the powerful vision of telescopes can & # 39; It does not always penetrate the mist of a planet. Because these hazy cloud clouds are actually solid particles that float in the gas, the particles mix with the spectral fingerprints created when light interacts with that gas. Telescopic eyes must squint to see what gases and how many of them spin in an exotic atmosphere. Even Hubble would suffer headaches from this.

"Each gas has a fingerprint that is unique," explained Hörst. "If you measure a sufficiently large spectral range, you can see how all the fingerprints are superimposed one on top of the other."

If a telescope can not accurately distinguish these fingerprints through fog, it could mean that scientists are losing planets that are potentially habitable. The super-Earths and mini-Neptunes that orbit outside our solar system are more difficult to approach and look for signs of what life might be like.

Enter atmospheres conjured by Hörst trying to answer the question of what alien atmospheres would end up being nebulous. His team brought exoplanets to the earth using computer models that proposed different percentages of dominant gases (carbon dioxide, hydrogen and helium) and other gases (helium, carbon monoxide, methane and nitrogen), heated at three temperatures in a chamber, to create nine possible "planets". Each heated mbad of particles had chemical reactions initiated inside that chamber as it flowed through a plasma discharge.

There was fog in the nine, but what the team did not expect was that the dominant water variants produced the greatest haze. What surprised Hörst was that the methane atmospheres were not the most opaque, because there was an old idea that methane was the main ingredient to make a haze. The particles also turned different colors, and in addition to sounding incredibly fresh, this told scientists how much heat a mist could trap.

"Having a layer of haze can change the temperature structure of an atmosphere," Hörst said. "It can prevent the really energetic photons from reaching a surface." He acknowledged that we still have a long way to go when it comes to determining what real atmospheres there are nebulas and the impact of those fog particles.

is just the beginning of a fog investigation that could help anyone badyzing data from the James Webb Space Telescope in the near future to know what to look for. Aliens? Maybe.

(through the Johns Hopkins University)


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