We have not yet succeeded in finding life on Mars; However, according to one scientist, we will probably find signs of life outside the solar system in the next 25 years. This claim Sasha Quanzastrophysicist at the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Center for the Origin and Spread of Life at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Kwans pointed to technology-driven projects that could potentially help scientists answer an important question that has plagued our minds: Are we alone or are there other living things? there are?
Sasha Cowans says:
In 1995, my colleague, Didier Claus And the Nobel laureate discovered the first extrasolar planet. Today, we know more than 5,000 exoplanets and discover new ones every day.
According to the media report space.comAstronomers believe that all the more than 100 billion stars in the Milky Way have at least one companion planet; For this reason, the number of planets in our galaxy is much more than expected. Many of these planets are just like Earth and are located at the right distance from their star to support life, such as the presence of liquid water, Sascha Quans says.
We don’t know if these Earth-like planets have atmospheres like ours. Also, we don’t know what their atmosphere is made of. We have to research the atmosphere of these planets. For this, we need an intuitive approach; An approach that would allow us to image these planets.
The opening ceremony of the Center for the Origin and Proliferation of Life at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich was held while a few days ago members of James Webb’s team published the first direct image of an exoplanet from this space telescope. The mentioned planet is orbiting a distant star. This large gas giant, known as HIP 65426 b, is 12 times larger than Jupiter, and its distance from its star is 100 times that of Earth from the Sun.
The James Webb Space Telescope is primarily designed to study the oldest stars in the world; But at the beginning of his work, he has made great discoveries in the field of extrasolar planets. This telescope has managed to confirm the presence of carbon dioxide and water in the atmosphere of some of these planets.
While James Webb is the most powerful observatory in space, it is not powerful enough to detect smaller Earth-sized planets orbiting closer to their star and possibly containing water, says Sacha Cowans.
HIP 65426 is a very special system. In this system, a gas giant planet orbits at a great distance from the star. The ability of James Webb in the field of imaging in planets is the same. We cannot take pictures of minor planets. James Webb is not strong enough to do such a thing.
Scientists are currently working on new imaging tools to fill this critical gap in the James Webb Space Telescope’s capabilities. Cowans and his team lead the production project METIS (Mid-Infrared ELT Imager and Spectrograph) and plans to add it to the European Very Large Telescope (ELT).
The ELT is currently under construction in Chile and will have a 40-meter-wide mirror upon completion later this decade. The use of this mirror makes the ELT the largest optical telescope in the world.
According to Cowans, the main goal of METIS is to capture the first image of an Earth-like planet around one of the nearest stars: “Our long-term goal is to do this for dozens of stars and to study the atmospheres of dozens of Earth-like exoplanets.”
METIS probably won’t be able to detect signs of life on exoplanets either, says Cowans. A ground-based telescope such as the ELT faces an important obstacle, namely the Earth’s atmosphere, and this obstacle can make measurements imprecise. According to this scientist, James Webb probably also cannot detect signs of life; Therefore, a completely new mission is needed.
According to Quans, the new mission has been discussed by European scientists at the European Space Agency. The mission, currently known as LIFE (short for Large Interferometer for Extrasolar Planets), was conceived in 2017. This mission is currently in its early stages and has not been officially confirmed. LIFE currently does not have a specific budget; But according to Cowans, LIFE is likely to be one of the next big missions of the European Space Agency.
The new space telescope will look at a large number of exoplanets for signs of molecules in their atmospheres. The presence of molecules in the atmosphere probably confirms the presence of living organisms on planets. The Center for the Origin and Proliferation of Life at the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich hopes to provide the groundwork for the LIFE mission and advance human understanding of the chemistry of life.
A 25-year timeline to detect signs of life on exoplanets seems ambitious, says Sasha Cowans; But it is not unrealistic. He continues: “There is no guarantee of success; But we are going to learn other things on the way to achieve this goal.”