Why is it that astronomers are so obsessed to find whether there was alien life on another planet or if there is a rocky exoplanet that would ever be able to host life? The thing with this question is that even if it is highly philosophical, it has much more to do with our survival instinct. The propensity to make sure our species won’t go extinct.
It’s not something to worry about too soon, so maybe this is why not all people are preoccupied with the answers. We have another philosophy that acts as a survival behavior: carpe diem. But the moment when there will be no conditions left for humans to survive will eventually come. If it isn’t humans that will make the Earth fall apart, the Sun most likely will.
The thing with the Sun being life provider and sustainer is that it has two sides: it can, and it will stop being so once it will go to its next evolution phase. Now, the Sun is a main-sequence star. But there will be a time when the Sun will follow its natural course, and it will die, becoming a black dwarf.
But it isn’t then that life on Earth will disappear. Until the black phase, the Sun will have to go through the red giant phase, and then the white. The giant red phase is the menace. It is expected to grow so much as to devour the closest two, maybe three planets to it.
Rocky exoplanets orbiting white dwarf stars might host alien life
Maybe our Sun’s red phase will go easy on us, and let us make it to the white phase, where there will be light and warmth similar to what the Sun’s current stage provides. It Earth will make it through the red phase, then life might go on, or at least burst again.
This is why scientists are so highly interested in finding, observing, and analyzing as many white dwarf stars as possible. Well, not just white dwarfs, but mostly planets orbiting white dwarfs. White stars are considered to be already dead even if they can continue to live for billions of years.
A new study lead by Thea Kozakis, from Cornell University, reveals a revolutionary method to conclude whether rocky exoplanets hosted by white dwarf stars might house alien life. The technique is a sort of spectral field guide that can measure the levels of spectral biosignatures created by methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.
It isn’t an exhaustive analysis, false positives are to be expected, but it is the most advanced tool we have so far. Hopefully, it will grow into becoming an accurate method, or at least that it will inspire future generations of astronomers to develop new ones.
“Publishing this kind of guide allows observers to know what to look for. We show what the spectral fingerprints could be and what forthcoming space-based and large terrestrial telescopes can look out for,” said Thea Kozakis on the possibility that alien life might reside on rocky exoplanets around white dwarf stars.