Connect with us


Nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, on planets could indicate the presence of life



Currently, the best way to look for alien life in other star systems is to look for biosignals: the presence of certain molecules in the atmospheres of distant worlds. Oxygen and methane are prime candidates for the search.

Now researchers at the University of California, Riverside have put forward the case for a different type of gas, nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas.

There are several biological processes that produce this substance, and the team’s models suggest it can be detected in the atmospheres of nearby exoplanets using the James Webb Telescope (JWST).

“In a star system like TRAPPIST-1, the closest and best system for observing the atmospheres of rocky planets, nitrous oxide could potentially be detected at levels comparable to carbon dioxide or methane,” said study lead author Eddie Schwieterman, an astrobiologist at the University of California, California.

The formation of nitrous oxide is mainly due to microorganisms, some of which can use nitrate to fuel their cellular metabolism, releasing laughing gas in the process.

“Life produces nitrogen waste, which some microorganisms convert into nitrates. These nitrates build up in the aquarium, so you have to change the water,” added Schwiterman. “However, under the right conditions in the ocean, some bacteria can convert these nitrates into nitric oxide. The gas then seeps into the atmosphere.”

This is where telescopes can detect it. Previous studies ruled out the possibility of detecting nitric oxide, because there is not so much of it on Earth anymore.

However, the team of researchers believes that this conclusion does not take into account that exoplanets may have conditions more suitable for the formation of this gas. Also, stars that are dimmer than the Sun would be less likely to split this gas into its constituents.

“This conclusion does not take into account periods in the history of the Earth when ocean conditions would have allowed much greater emission of nitric oxide by organisms. Conditions during those periods may reflect where the exoplanet is today,” Schwiterman said.

The research team is confident that nitric oxide is a strong contender to look for biosignals in other parts of the galaxy.

“There has been a lot of speculation that oxygen and methane are biosignals. Few have seriously considered nitric oxide, but we think that this may be a mistake,” concluded Schwiterman.

The work was published today in the Astrophysical Journal.

Continue Reading


Extraterrestrial life may be hiding in “terminator zones”




In a study published in the Astrophysical Journal, astrophysicists set out to find out if exoplanets could support life.

Astronomers have come to the conclusion that on the surface of some exoplanets there is a strip that may contain water, necessary for the existence of biological life. The terminator zone is the dividing line between the day and night sides of an exoplanet.

Many exoplanets are planets outside the solar system held by gravity. This means that one side of the planet is always facing the star they orbit, while the other side is in constant darkness.

The water on the dark side will most likely be in a frozen state, while on the light side it will be so hot that the water should just evaporate.

The terminator zone would be a “friendly place” – neither too hot nor too cold – in which liquid water could support extraterrestrial life.

Dr. Ana Lobo of the University of California, said: “The day side can be scalding hot, much uninhabitable, while the night side will be icy, potentially covered in ice. You need a planet that’s the right temperature for liquid water.”

“We’re trying to draw attention to planets with more limited amounts of water that, despite not having widespread oceans, might have lakes or other smaller bodies of liquid water, and that climate could actually be very promising.”

“By exploring these exotic climate states, we are improving our chances of finding and correctly identifying a habitable planet in the near future.”

The researchers created a model of their climate by analyzing different temperatures, wind patterns and radiative forcing, and found the “correct” zone on exoplanets that could contain life-supporting liquid water.

Researchers who are looking for life on exoplanets will now take into account the fact that it can hide in certain areas.

Continue Reading


Astronomers discover the strongest evidence for another Universe before the Big Bang




The notion of the Big Bang goes back nearly 100 years, when the first evidence for the expanding Universe appeared.

If the Universe is expanding and cooling today, that implies a past that was smaller, denser, and hotter. In our imaginations, we can extrapolate back to arbitrarily small sizes, high densities, and hot temperatures: all the way to a singularity, where all of the Universe’s matter and energy was condensed in a single point. 

For many decades, these two notions of the Big Bang — of the hot dense state that describes the early Universe and the initial singularity — were inseparable.

But beginning in the 1970s, scientists started identifying some puzzles surrounding the Big Bang, noting several properties of the Universe that weren’t explainable within the context of these two notions simultaneously. 

When cosmic inflation was first put forth and developed in the early 1980s, it separated the two definitions of the Big Bang, proposing that the early hot, dense state never achieved these singular conditions, but rather that a new, inflationary state preceded it. 

There really was a Universe before the hot Big Bang, and some very strong evidence from the 21st century truly proves that it’s so.

Although we’re certain that we can describe the very early Universe as being hot, dense, rapidly expanding, and full of matter-and-radiation — i.e., by the hot Big Bang — the question of whether that was truly the beginning of the Universe or not is one that can be answered with evidence. 

The differences between a Universe that began with a hot Big Bang and a Universe that had an inflationary phase that precedes and sets up the hot Big Bang are subtle, but tremendously important. After all, if we want to know what the very beginning of the Universe was, we need to look for evidence from the Universe itself.

Read the full article here.

Continue Reading


Generated by Feedzy