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Fluorescent glow can reveal hidden life in the cosmos

  Fluorescent glow can reveal hidden life in the cosmos.
Illustration by Wendy Kenigsberg / Matt Fondeur / Cornell University

Astronomers have discovered a new way of finding life in the cosmos. Strong UV rays from red suns, which would once destroy life on the surface of planets, could help uncover hidden biospheres. Their radiation, according to a recent study by Cornell University, could trigger a protective glow of life on exoplanets called biofluorescence.

"Biofluorescence Worlds II: Biological Fluorescence Induced by Stellar UV Flares, a New Temporal Biosignature" was published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Search for Life in the Universe. Imagine a strange world glowing softly in a powerful telescope, "said lead author Jack O Malley-James, a researcher at the Carl Sagan Institute in Cornell.

" There are some underwater corals on Earth These use biofluorescence to convert the harmful ultraviolet radiation of the sun into harmless visible wavelengths and thus to create a beautiful aura. Perhaps such life forms can exist on other worlds and leave us a telltale sign to discover them, "said co-author Lisa Kaltenegger, associate professor of astronomy and director of the Carl Sagan Institute.

Astronomers are generally in agreement that a great Part of the exoplanets ̵

1; planets beyond our solar system – living in the habitable zone of M-type stars, the most abundant beautiful types of stars in the universe, M-type stars often flicker and when these ultraviolet torches hit their planets, biofluorescence could paint these worlds in beautiful colors The next generation of earth- or space-based telescopes can detect the luminous exoplanets if they exist in the cosmos.

A process called "photoprotective biofluorescence" can transform ultraviolet rays into longer, safer ones Wavelengths to be absorbed A specific s signs that astronomers can search for.

Credit: Cornell University

"Such biofluorescence could make hidden biospheres visible on new worlds by their transient glow when a star's flare hits the planet," said Kaltenegger.] Astronomers used the emission characteristics of Earth's from fluorescent coral pigments to create model spectra and colors for planets orbiting active M-stars to mimic the strength of the signal and determine if it could be detected for life.

In 2016, astronomers discovered a rocky exoplanet called Proxima b – a potentially habitable world orbiting the active M-star Proxima Centauri, the next star of the earth behind the sun – that may qualify as a target. Proxima b is also one of the most optimal destinations for the distant future.

"These biotic species of exoplanets are very good targets in our quest for exoplanets, and these luminescent miracles are among our best ways to find life on exoplanets." O & # 39; Malley-James said.

Large land-based telescopes, which are now being developed for 10 to 20 years in the future, could detect this glow.

"It's a great destination for the next generation of large telescopes that can capture enough light from small planets to test for signs of life, like the extreme-sized telescope in Chile," Kaltenegger said.

Life could just develop on the next exoplanet

Further information:
Jack T. O'Malley-James et al., Biofluorescent Worlds – II. Biological Fluorescence Induced by Stellar UV Flares, a New Biosignature in Time, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2019). DOI: 10.1093 / mnras / stz1842

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Cornell University

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Fluorescent glow can reveal hidden life in the cosmos (2019, Aug. 13)
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