I have a new article out in The Planetary Society that explains at an introductory level how astronomers are using spectroscopy to search for signs of life in the universe. The article discusses different techniques for studying the atmospheres of exoplanets. Planetary atmospheres can contain trace gases that are only produced by biological processes, like ozone or dimethyl sulfide on Earth. There are a lot of caveats though, and the article discusses a recent result that jumped the gun a bit, which was, unfortunately, subsequently interpreted by the press as potential evidence for life on another planet. I try to explain why the result is likely incorrect, and what the prospects are for future measurements of biosignatures.
The article can be found here: https://www.planetary.org/articles/how-astronomers-search-for-life-on-exoplanets
I’ve got some exciting science coming up this month, and hopefully a fun trip next month. I’ll try to post some updates about both when they happen. Until then, clear skies.