If there is a planet or moon inhabited by lifelike extraterrestrial lifeforms of the kind we know, they may also be behaving like broccoli.
Alien broccoli? Not exactly. There is now a new possible biosignature that could reveal signs of life on distant planets. “Methylation” is a process used by broccoli, algae and many plants and microbes on the earth to clean toxins (poisonous substances) by turning them into gas.
If the same gases are also found in the atmospheres of exoplanets, they could potentially be detected by instruments similar to those in the James Webb Space Telescope. Michaela Leung, a planetary scientist at the University of California (UC), led a study that recently found that these gases are unlikely to be released from anything non-living.
A DIFFERENT PROCESS IN THE WORLD
“Methylation is so prevalent on Earth that we would expect life elsewhere to do the same,” Leung said. Said. “Most cells have different mechanisms for removing pollutants. There are several ways to produce this gas non-biologically; so if you find it, it can be a pretty big sign of life.”
Living organisms are more efficient producers, although methyl-laden gases are likely to form as a result of volcanic eruptions. Toxic heavy metals and other substances are converted by three hydrogen atoms and one carbon atom before being released into the gaseous state.
Methylated gases appear in the mid-infrared region of the spectrum; This is how the James Webb Space Telescope and other telescopes can detect particles of atmospheric gas likely orbiting a planet as they pass light from their star. Webb’s ‘NIRSpec’ tool is the tool most likely to detect after separating positive signals from background noise.
LIFE CAN BE A SIGN OF LIFE
Some of these gases are more likely than others to spawn strange creatures. Methane is often released even as it decomposes from biological sources;
However, it is more a byproduct of abiotic (non-biological) reactions than some other methylated gases. “Methyl bromide” (CH3Br) gas is particularly popular because it does not stay in the atmosphere for long; because if it was discovered, it must have been released from something recently. This thing may still be alive.
- Another methylated gas that astronomers will soon be looking for is methyl chloride (CH3Cl). Methyl bromide, on the other hand, is more detectable than methyl chloride and is most commonly seen in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting an M dwarf star.
- The disadvantage of these gases is that UV rays (ultraviolet rays) break down the water molecules and the rest of the gases break down. M dwarfs do not emit solar-level UV radiation.
It may take Webb or another telescope to watch a planet’s perhaps facial transit to see signs of methylated gas expelled by living organisms. On the other hand, if one is in a distant atmosphere, this finding likely means that Earth isn’t just the home of life.