Laughing gas the journey to find life on other planets

Laughing gas the journey to find life on other planets The research team thinks it's time for astrobiologists to consider alternative biosignature gases, such as nitrous oxide, because the James Webb Telescope may soon be sending information about the atmospheres of rocky, Earth-like planets.  A team of scientists suggests that something is missing from the typical list of chemicals that astrobiologists use to search for life on other planets, and at the top of that list is nitrous oxide, a gas used in anesthesia and pain treatment, known as "laughing gas".  In a study published in the Astrophysical Journal, this conclusion was clarified, which was subjected to several tests that led to the proof of this scientific concept, which constitutes a vital fingerprint, and these results are expected to change our view of the search for life in outer space.  Biometric fingerprints Chemical compounds in a planet's atmosphere that could indicate life are called biosignatures, and they usually include gases that are abundant in Earth's atmosphere today.  “There has been a lot of thinking about oxygen and methane as biosignatures,” Eddie Schwetterman, an astrobiologist in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California, Riverside, says in a university news release . He's seriously thinking about nitrous oxide, but we think that could be a mistake."  So, Schwittermann led a team of researchers who determined how much nitrous oxide could be produced by organisms on a planet similar to Earth. Then they made models of that planet around different types of stars, and determined the amounts of nitrous oxide that could be detected by an observatory such as the James Webb Space Telescope.  "The closest and best system for observing the atmospheres of rocky planets in a star system is to detect nitrous oxide at levels similar to carbon dioxide or methane," Schwettermann said.  Nitrogen waste There are several ways in which organisms can synthesize nitrous oxide. Microorganisms are constantly converting other nitrogen compounds into nitrous oxide, a metabolic process that can produce useful cellular energy.  The organisms generate nitrogen waste which is converted by some microorganisms into nitrate. “In a fish tank, these nitrates build up, so you have to change the water,” Schwettermann says. “However, under the right conditions in the ocean, certain bacteria can convert that nitrate into nitrous oxide,” and then the gas escapes into the atmosphere.  For example, Schwittermann's team put into their design that a small amount of nitrous oxide can be formed by lightning, and nitrous oxide can be detected in the atmosphere under certain conditions, in which case it does not indicate the presence of life. But besides nitrous oxide, lightning also produces nitrogen dioxide, which would provide astrobiologists with evidence that nonliving weather or geological processes are generating the gas.  Biometric gas Others who consider nitrous oxide a gas with a biosignature often conclude that it would be difficult to detect from afar. This conclusion is based on the fact that concentrations of nitrous oxide in Earth's atmosphere today are low, although the planet is teeming with life, and some believe that it would also be difficult to detect elsewhere.  In response to this claim, Schwettermann said, "This conclusion does not take into account periods in Earth's history when ocean conditions would have allowed a much greater biological release of nitrous oxide. Conditions at those periods may reflect where an exoplanet is today."  Schwittermann added that common stars such as K and M dwarfs produce a light spectrum that is less effective at breaking down a molecule of nitrous oxide than our sun. Together, these two effects could lead to a significant increase in the expected amount of biosignature gas in a populated world.  The research team believes it is time for astrobiologists to consider alternative biosignature gases, such as nitrous oxide, because the James Webb Telescope may soon be sending information about the atmospheres of rocky, Earth-like planets.

The research team thinks it's time for astrobiologists to consider alternative biosignature gases, such as nitrous oxide, because the James Webb Telescope may soon be sending information about the atmospheres of rocky, Earth-like planets.

A team of scientists suggests that something is missing from the typical list of chemicals that astrobiologists use to search for life on other planets, and at the top of that list is nitrous oxide, a gas used in anesthesia and pain treatment, known as "laughing gas".

In a study published in the Astrophysical Journal, this conclusion was clarified, which was subjected to several tests that led to the proof of this scientific concept, which constitutes a vital fingerprint, and these results are expected to change our view of the search for life in outer space.

Biometric fingerprints
Chemical compounds in a planet's atmosphere that could indicate life are called biosignatures, and they usually include gases that are abundant in Earth's atmosphere today.

“There has been a lot of thinking about oxygen and methane as biosignatures,” Eddie Schwetterman, an astrobiologist in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California, Riverside, says in a university news release . He's seriously thinking about nitrous oxide, but we think that could be a mistake."

So, Schwittermann led a team of researchers who determined how much nitrous oxide could be produced by organisms on a planet similar to Earth. Then they made models of that planet around different types of stars, and determined the amounts of nitrous oxide that could be detected by an observatory such as the James Webb Space Telescope.

"The closest and best system for observing the atmospheres of rocky planets in a star system is to detect nitrous oxide at levels similar to carbon dioxide or methane," Schwettermann said.

Nitrogen waste
There are several ways in which organisms can synthesize nitrous oxide. Microorganisms are constantly converting other nitrogen compounds into nitrous oxide, a metabolic process that can produce useful cellular energy.

The organisms generate nitrogen waste which is converted by some microorganisms into nitrate. “In a fish tank, these nitrates build up, so you have to change the water,” Schwettermann says. “However, under the right conditions in the ocean, certain bacteria can convert that nitrate into nitrous oxide,” and then the gas escapes into the atmosphere.

For example, Schwittermann's team put into their design that a small amount of nitrous oxide can be formed by lightning, and nitrous oxide can be detected in the atmosphere under certain conditions, in which case it does not indicate the presence of life. But besides nitrous oxide, lightning also produces nitrogen dioxide, which would provide astrobiologists with evidence that nonliving weather or geological processes are generating the gas.

Biometric gas
Others who consider nitrous oxide a gas with a biosignature often conclude that it would be difficult to detect from afar. This conclusion is based on the fact that concentrations of nitrous oxide in Earth's atmosphere today are low, although the planet is teeming with life, and some believe that it would also be difficult to detect elsewhere.

In response to this claim, Schwettermann said, "This conclusion does not take into account periods in Earth's history when ocean conditions would have allowed a much greater biological release of nitrous oxide. Conditions at those periods may reflect where an exoplanet is today."

Schwittermann added that common stars such as K and M dwarfs produce a light spectrum that is less effective at breaking down a molecule of nitrous oxide than our sun. Together, these two effects could lead to a significant increase in the expected amount of biosignature gas in a populated world.

The research team believes it is time for astrobiologists to consider alternative biosignature gases, such as nitrous oxide, because the James Webb Telescope may soon be sending information about the atmospheres of rocky, Earth-like planets.
Previous Post Next Post

Translate / Choose Your Language

Answer / Free classified ads / Any information me ⤵️