JERSEY CITY, N.J. — MIT astrophysicist Sara Seager searches the heavens for alien worlds that resemble Earth, with the final word aim of discovering an orb that not solely appears like our pale blue dot but in addition harbors life.
Reside Science caught up with Seager this month right here on the 2018 Liberty Science Heart Genius Gala the place she was an honoree. Here is the news from Seager on the place we’re at on this Earth-like planet search and how on earth we’ll know after we’ve discovered one with the components for all times.
Kepler and another house telescopes have revealed 1000’s of exoplanets thus far. For instance, the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) found the TRAPPIST-1 household — seven Earth-size planets that orbit a cool, red star. And scientists are en route to seek out 1000’s extra with NASA’s not too long ago launched TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite tv for pc), in line with Seager. “However we’re hoping that it’ll discover, like, the very particular Goldilocks planets — those that may very well be the appropriate distance from the star, which have rocky surfaces, which are good for following up to take a look at the atmospheres with one other telescope.” However determining if a planet is Earth-like is “extremely onerous,” Seager stated. [10 Exoplanets That Could Host Alien Life]
That follow-up may very well be doable with NASA’s James Webb Area Telescope, an ever-delayed mission that’s now scheduled to launch in 2020. Based on Seager, James Webb will permit exoplanet researchers to take a look at the atmospheres of small planets for signs of water vapor, carbon dioxide or other gases that might point out the presence of life.
“All of us need to discover the clever aliens that can ship us radio indicators,” Seager stated. “But it surely’s extra doubtless we’ll simply see gases that do not belong.” On our planet, vegetation and micro organism make oxygen, however we should not have the gasoline as a result of it is so reactive, Seager stated.
However that “gasoline we should not have” provides us the flexibility to breathe — if different worlds occur upon our personal, they could additionally discover it a bit odd.
Initially printed on Live Science.