Alien Planet Hunt: Astronomers Propose New Technique To Discover Alien Life

By Anne Dominguez , Dec 29, 2016 12:04 PM EST

Astronomers are getting more active to find signs of life in the outer space. Scientists from the University of Colorado are proposing a new technique to hunt for alien planets using spectroscopy and direct imaging. The said technology will make it possible to have detailed investigations on distant planets.

Observing exoplanets is a lot more difficult than searching for them. The current technology was able to identify their existence, NASA has discovered planets with weird colors and glints of what looked like oceans. However, it is more difficult to reveal their properties like gas composition or presence of water or rocks which would help identify if they can sustain life.

NASA is planning an upgrade to investigate life on potential alien planets by creating a new space telescope, which is about 2,000 times more sensitive than the orbiting Hubble telescope. According to NASA, the Advanced Technology Large Aperture Space Telescope (ATLAST) is capable of identifying habitable zones and detecting biosignatures, but it won't be ready until the 2030's.

Using techniques that are available now, University of Colorado scientists suggests a way to discover habitable zones in alien planets through a combination of high-resolution spectroscopy and direct imaging. Direct imaging can produce a detailed image of an exoplanet using a telescope imager and a device that blocks the light from the planet's star. Meanwhile, high-resolution spectroscopy can provide fine details of the wavelength of the light using chemical fingerprints.

A team of scientists headed by Dr. Matteo Brogi proposes combining the two techniques according to Global Times. Direct imaging will be used to know the exact location on the planet and the high-resolution spectroscopy could determine the light wavelength. This spectroscopic image can reveal the gas composition like the presence of oxygen and methane in the planet.

However, there are some drawbacks, the telescope that would be able to execute this technique, the Giant Magellan Telescope, will only be completed in 2021. Still, the scientists believe that this method would be able to help investigate alien planets earlier.

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