Biosignatures & Paleobiology

Remote Detectability of Earth's Biosphere Through Time

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
March 13, 2019
Filed under
Remote Detectability of Earth's Biosphere Through Time
Earth and Sun

Thousands of planets beyond our solar system have been discovered to date, dozens of which are rocky in composition and are orbiting within the circumstellar habitable zone of their host star.

The next frontier in life detection beyond our solar system will be detailed characterization of the atmospheres of potentially habitable worlds, resulting in a pressing need to develop a comprehensive understanding of the factors controlling the emergence and maintenance of atmospheric biosignatures. Understanding Earth system evolution is central to this pursuit, and a refined understanding of Earth’s evolution can provide substantive insight into observational and interpretive frameworks in exoplanet science.

Using this framework, we argue here that UV observations can help to effectively mitigate ‘false positive’ scenarios for oxygen-based biosignatures, while ‘false negative’ scenarios potentially represent a significant problem for biosignature surveys lacking UV capability. Moving forward, we suggest that well-resolved UV observations will be critical for near-term volume-limited surveys of habitable planets orbiting nearby Sun-like stars, and will provide the potential for biosignature detection across the most diverse spectrum of reducing, weakly oxygenated, and oxic habitable terrestrial planets.

Remote Detectability of Earth’s Biosphere Through Time – Importance of UV Capability For Characterizing Habitable Exoplanets

Christopher T. Reinhard, Edward W. Schwieterman, Stephanie L. Olson, Noah J. Planavsky, Giada N. Arney, Kazumi Ozaki, Sanjoy Som, Tyler D. Robinson, Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman, Doug Lisman, Bertrand Mennesson, Victoria S. Meadows, Timothy W. Lyons
(Submitted on 13 Mar 2019)

Comments: White paper submitted in response to the solicitation of feedback for the Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics (Astro 2020) by the National Academy of Sciences
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1903.05611 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1903.05611v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Christopher Reinhard
[v1] Wed, 13 Mar 2019 17:24:34 UTC (213 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) πŸ––πŸ»