Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Exactly is an Exoplanet, Alien Life Will Be Found Exoplanets

Exoplanets and Extraterrestrial Life

Extraterrestrial life has always been a topic of hot debate. The latest to add to the list of planets that could possibly have life on them are exoplanets. An extra-solar planet or exoplanet is basically a planet outside the solar system, which is known to have life on its surface.

The discovery of exoplanets, especially those in the habitable zone, has been a favourite subject of research for extraterrestrial life.

Recently, astronomers have found the nearest planet outside the solar system, which is just four light-years away along with 50 previously unknown planets. One of the planets was found to be in the habitable zone, sparking off another debate on the existence of life on the planet. The planet discovered is nearly identical to Earth in mass, but is much closer to its star than Mercury is to the sun, which means that the planet is a scorched and barren rock.

Amruta Limaye, a student pursuing a PhD in particle physics says that this discovery will lead to many future space telescopes to look for signs of life in the planet’s atmosphere by looking for chemical signatures such as evidence of oxygen. “The new discovery shows that the pace of research is accelerating and we shall soon see new telescopes being invented. This discovery is indeed path breaking,” she says.

Indranuj, an avid sci-fi enthusiast and a plasma physicist says that there is a lot more to be explored. “The discovery of exoplanets in our neighborhood and the super-Earths lying in the ‘habitable’ zone at distant stars by the HARPES, certainly makes the possibility of finding life out there much more probable. How and what that life may be is an open question however since we know very less about the magnetosphere, atmosphere and composition of such exoplanets. Exobiologists have even hypothised the possibility of silicon-based life form, in which case the telltale sign of life that we search for may not be detectable. It is actually too early to tell, until then we have Chris Carter and Gene Rodenbary,” he says.


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