Alien impostors: oxygen does not guarantee life on the planet

Alien impostors: oxygen does not guarantee life on the planet

CO2 Filled Planetary Atmosphere Exposed to Plasma Discharge

In the process of searching for life in the approximate and remote solar systems, scientists often focused on the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere of the planet, considering it a sure sign of the presence of life. However, the findings of the new study recommend revising this statement.

Modeling in the laboratory the atmosphere of exoplanets, scientists have successfully created both organic compounds and oxygen, in the absence of life. This is an important conclusion, especially for those who, when looking for life, are guided exclusively by the oxygen marker.

New experiments allowed us to obtain oxygen and organic molecules that can serve as the building blocks of life in the laboratory. So, researchers will have to more carefully study how these molecules are produced in other worlds. Oxygen occupies 20% of the Earth’s atmosphere and is considered one of the most reliable signatures of life on our planet.

However, we do not have so much information about how different energy sources on exoplanets initiate chemical reactions that can create biogroups, like oxygen. Previously, scientists launched photochemical models on computers to predict which atmospheres oxygen can create, but only now was it possible to conduct an experiment. For the experiment, a PHAZER camera was used. The team checked 9 different gas mixtures in accordance with forecasts for exoplanet atmospheres such as super-Earth or mini-Neptune. These are the most common planets in the Milky Way galaxy. In each mixture there was a certain composition of gases, like carbon dioxide, ammonia and methane. Each was heated to 80-700 degrees Fahrenheit.

Each mixture was launched into the PHAZER facility, and then subjected to one of two types of energy that simulate energy that activates chemical reactions in the atmospheres of the planets: plasma from a glowing alternating current or light from an ultraviolet lamp. Plasma is a stronger source of energy than UV light, and is able to mimic electrical activity, like lightning. But UV light is the main engine of chemical reactions in the atmospheres of planets, such as Earth, Saturn and Pluto.

The experiments lasted continuously for 3 days. This time corresponds to the period during which the gas will be exposed to energy sources in space. Thus, it was possible to derive several scenarios that created both oxygen and organic molecules capable of forming sugars and amino acids (raw materials for life), as well as formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide.

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