Recently in the Biosignatures & Paleobiology Category


The Curiosity rover recently detected a background of 0.7 ppb and spikes of 7 ppb of methane on Mars. This in situ measurement reorients our understanding of the Martian environment and its potential for life, as the current theories do not entail any geological source or sink of methane that varies sub-annually.

Circumstellar debris disks are the extrasolar analogues of the asteroid belt and the Kuiper belt. They consist of comets and leftover planetesimals that continuously collide and produce circumstellar dust that can be observed as infrared excess or in resolved imaging.

In order to identify inhabited worlds beyond the Solar System, scientists are exploring the possibility of detecting gases that could serve as biosignatures in the atmospheres of extrasolar planets.

Are we alone in the universe? To answer this question, astronomers have been using a variety of methods in the past decades to search for habitable planets and for the signals from extraterrestrial observers.

The planned launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018 will herald a new era of exoplanet spectroscopy. JWST will be the first telescope sensitive enough to potentially characterize terrestrial planets from their transmission spectra.

Research from the University of Washington-based Virtual Planetary Laboratory published Feb. 26 in Astrophysical Journal Letters will help astronomers better identify -- and thus rule out -- "false positives" in the search for life beyond Earth.

O2 and O3 have been long considered the most robust individual biosignature gases in a planetary atmosphere, yet multiple mechanisms that may produce them in the absence of life have been described.

Researchers from North Carolina State University have confirmed that blood vessel-like structures found in an 80 million-year-old hadrosaur fossil are original to the animal, and not biofilm or other contaminants.

If you were looking for the signatures of life on another world, you would want to take something small and portable with you.

An atmospheric haze around a faraway planet -- like the one which probably shrouded and cooled the young Earth -- could show that the world is potentially habitable, or even be a sign of life itself.