(ORDO NEWS) — Astronomers have a new trick for finding habitable planets, and it involves using the moon as a giant mirror.
Essentially, NASA and ESA scientists used the Hubble Space Telescope to capture light reflected from the Moon after it passed through Earth’s atmosphere, Space.com reported.
By studying this reflection of our habitable atmosphere, scientists suspect they may be looking for the same chemical signatures on distant planets, indicating the possibility of alien life.
Usually, when scientists use the term “Earth-like” exoplanet, they mean a rocky world, about the same size as ours, and at the right distance from its host star for an acceptable temperature. But it is much more difficult to tell if these exoplanets really have an atmosphere or if they are remotely hospitable.
“One of NASA’s primary goals is to identify planets where life could exist,” scientist Allison Youngblood said in a press release. “But how would we know if a planet is inhabited or uninhabited if we saw it?”
That’s why Youngblood’s study, published Thursday in The Astronomical Journal, is so important.
The study measured the amount of ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere. Finding the same chemical signature emanating from a planet would reveal that it may have an oxygen-rich, UV-blocking atmosphere just like ours.
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