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The Extremely Large Telescope could find a biosignature on the exoplanet closest to Earth

The Extremely Large Telescope could find a biosignature on the exoplanet closest to Earth

The Extremely Large Telescope, which is currently under construction, is expected to be powerful enough to find any traces of life on relatively nearby rocky planets. Three researchers from the USA determined this using simulations. They found that the giant telescope, once it becomes operational at the end of the decade, should be able to find methane (CH₄), carbon dioxide (CO₂) and water (H₂O) on some particularly close exoplanets if material is present there. .


With a longer exposure time, even oxygen (O₂) can be detected. Researchers have identified GJ 887 b, Wolf 1061 c, and Proxima b, the closest exoplanets to Earth, as the most promising exoplanets. All of the materials mentioned are potential biosignatures, so their discovery could indicate the presence of Earth-like life there.

The group led by Huihao Zhang of Ohio State University simulated the performance of a total of three planned giant telescopes, as well as the ELT, the Giant Magellan Telescope, and the Thirty Meter Telescope. But the ELT will be the largest and most promising in the search for extraterrestrial life. It will be able to target the three relatively nearby exoplanets – none of which are more than 14 light-years away – using so-called coronagraphs covering their star. In this way, its atmosphere can be searched for traces of life without celestial bodies having to pass in front of its star. The group decided that the James Webb Space Telescope would perform better overall. Unlike the performance of giant telescopes still under construction, this can already be verified.

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The researchers explain their work by saying that the search for extraterrestrial life will play a central role in astronomy in the coming years. At the same time, simulations like yours are essential to getting the most out of tools that cost billions. They are now calling for the time remaining until giant telescopes are operational to continue exploring the Earth's atmosphere. Only when one truly knows how its structure relates to the existence of life can one truly hope to be able to draw conclusions about the existence of life from the evidence found on an exoplanet. Your simulation and detailed results It was presented in the specialized magazine The Astronomical Journal.

The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope is currently being built on Cerro Armazons, an area approximately 3,000 meters high in Chile's Atacama Desert. The steel frame of the dome has been growing there for a few months. By 2028, the world's largest telescope is scheduled to begin its scientific work and provide answers to fundamental questions in astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology. The expectations are huge. Before the start of the year, the first parts of the giant primary mirror were shipped to Chile and arrived there in mid-January.


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