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Detecting Photosynthesis on Exoplanets

18 May 2017, 17:20 UTC
Detecting Photosynthesis on Exoplanets Caltech illustration by Doug Cummings
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Although many of the nearby stars we will study for signs of life are older than the Sun, we do not know how long it takes life to emerge or, for that matter, how likely it is to emerge at all. As we saw yesterday, that means plugging values into Drake-like equations to estimate the possibility of detecting an alien civilization. We can’t rule out the possibility that we are surrounded by planets teeming with non-sentient life, fecund worlds that have no heat-producing technologies to observe. Fortunately, we are developing the tools for detecting life of the simplest kinds, so that while a telescope of Colossus class can be used to detect technology-based heat signatures, it can also be put to work looking for simpler biomarkers.

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