It became clear why scientists call the wrong planets suitable for life

In an article published in AGU Advances, the authors explain that modern telescope technology can

end up giving false positives whenresearchers are trying to find signs of life in other worlds. They say that while we can detect the presence of oxygen in a planet's atmosphere with increasing reliability, it is not enough to declare the planet habitable.

In the coming decades, possibly by the end of the 2030syears, astronomers hope to obtain a telescope capable of capturing the spectra of potentially Earth-like planets around stars like the Sun. The idea is to target planets similar enough to Earth for life to emerge and characterize their atmospheres.

Such telescopes will allow scientists to provethe existence of life outside the Earth using the search for biosignatures. In fact, biosignatures are any manifestation of the consequences of life activity, scientifically proving the existence of life in the past or present. They hint at the presence of life in addition to the fact that there may be oxygen available on the planet.

The problem is that there was a lot of discussion,whether the detection of oxygen is a sufficient "sign of life". By varying the initial set of volatiles in the model of geochemical evolution of rocky planets, scientists have come to an important conclusion: when oxygen is detected, context is necessary.

By varying the initial set of volatile elements inmodels of the geochemical evolution of rocky planets, the researchers obtained a wide range of results, including several scenarios in which a lifeless rocky planet around a star like the sun could evolve to have oxygen in its atmosphere. Credit: J. Chrissansen-Totton.

Of course oxygen is essential for existencelife on the planet, so finding it in the planet's atmosphere would be a big step in finding habitable places. However, it is known that oxygen can exist on a planet without life. The fact is that the decomposition of water due to radiation can also cause its accumulation in the planet's atmosphere. At the same time, geological events can lead to an abundance of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The problem is, observing all of these gases on the planet can confuse scientists. They will decide that there is life, even though the potentially habitable planet is really nothing more than a wet, lifeless piece of rock. As a result, scientists call the wrong planets habitable.

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