Researchers from UCL and the University of New South Wales have developed a new spectrum for ‘hot’ methane which can be used to detect the molecule at temperatures above that of Earth, up to 1,500K/1220̊C – something that was not possible before.
To find out what remote planets orbiting other stars are made of, astronomers analyze the way in which their atmospheres absorb starlight of different colors and compare it to a model, or ‘spectrum’, to identify different molecules.
Professor Jonathan Tennyson, (UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy) co-author of the study said: “Current models of methane are incomplete, leading to a severe underestimation of methane levels on planets. We anticipate our new model will have a big impact on the future study of planets and ‘cool’ stars external to our solar system, potentially helping scientists identify signs of extraterrestrial life.”
It will be interesting to see how many planets could potentially host life. But, if they are far away, what is the next step?
See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology).
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