Biosignatures & Paleobiology: April 2016

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.