Carbon monoxide may signal life on other planets

Carbon monoxide may signal life on other planets
Proxima Centauri. Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon (STScI).

In a new study, researchers found carbon monoxide detectors may help find simple life forms on other planets.

This finding is different from scientists’ previous assumption that high levels of carbon monoxide in a planet’s atmosphere would signal lifelessness.

The research was led by researchers from the University of California – Riverside.

Previous studies have shown that the buildup of carbon monoxide can be life-threatening.

In the current study, the team built computer models of chemistry in the biosphere and atmosphere in exoplanets.

They found two scenarios in which carbon monoxide could accumulate in the atmospheres when there could be life on the plants.

One scenario showed the ancient version of inhabited Earth.

In the model, the oceans were already high in microbial life, but the atmosphere contained little oxygen and the carbon monoxide level was very high.

This model suggests that the Earth’s past can be used as a guide in the search for life elsewhere in the universe.

The second scenario showed that a planet around red dwarf stars far away from the Sun. If such a planet is inhabited and rich in oxygen, the carbon monoxide levels will be very high.

The researchers suggest that when the James Webb Space Telescope is launch in 2021, it may help explore such planets.

The study finding may help prepare for future missions that search for the inhabited world in other places of the universe.

This is the first study focusing on carbon monoxide on Earth-like exoplanets in a systematic way.

The lead author of the study is Edward Schwieterman, a NASA Postdoctoral Program fellow in UCR’s Department of Earth Sciences.

The study is published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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