Recently in the Biosignatures & Paleobiology Category

The search for spectroscopic biosignatures with the next-generation of space telescopes could provide observational constraints on the abundance of exoplanets with signs of life.

Can multicellular life be distinguished from single cellular life on an exoplanet? We hypothesize that abundant upright photosynthetic multicellular life (trees) will cast shadows at high sun angles that will distinguish them from single cellular life and test this using Earth as an exoplanet.

Scientists have discovered thousands of exoplanets, including dozens of terrestrial -- or rocky -- worlds in the habitable zones around their parent stars.

Over the last several years, spectroscopic observations of transiting exoplanets have begun to uncover information about their atmospheres, including atmospheric composition and indications of the presence of clouds and hazes.

Oxygen and methane are considered to be the canonical biosignatures of modern Earth, and the simultaneous detection of these gases in a planetary atmosphere is an especially strong biosignature.

Since planets around other stars (exoplanets) are so far away, scientists cannot look for signs of life by visiting these distant worlds.

In the near future we will have ground- and space-based telescopes that are designed to observe and characterize Earth-like planets. While attention is focused on exoplanets orbiting main sequence stars, more than 150 exoplanets have already been detected orbiting red giants, opening the intriguing question of what rocky worlds orbiting in the habitable zone of red giants would be like and how to characterize them.

With the first observations of debris disks as well as proposed planets around white dwarfs, the question of how rocky planets around such stellar remnants can be characterized and probed for signs of life becomes tangible.

The next generation of ground- and space-based telescopes will be able to observe rocky Earth-like planets in the near future, transiting their host star. We explore how the transmission spectrum of Earth changed through its geological history.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is expected to revolutionize our understanding of Jovian worlds over the coming decade. However, as we push towards characterizing cooler, smaller, "terrestrial-like" planets, dedicated next-generation facilities will be required to tease out the small spectral signatures indicative of biological activity.