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A team of astronomers from the University of Washington has created a “habitability index for transiting planets” to help guide the ongoing search for life beyond Earth.
The James Webb Space Telescope, set for launch in 2018, will be the first able to actually measure the atmospheric composition of a rocky, possibly Earth-like planet far off in space, and so vastly enhance the search for life.
Transmission spectroscopy is a technique used to gather details about the chemical composition and the extent of the atmosphere of a transiting exoplanet. As the light from the host star passes through the atmosphere of the planet, some of the light is absorbed by the atoms, molecules or grains present in the atmosphere, making the exoplanet appear bigger. A plot of the size of the exoplanet as a function of wavelength gives a transmission spectrum. The shape of the transmission spectrum itself then can indicate which components are present in the atmosphere. An example of a transmission spectrum is shown below.
Earth is assigned a habitability rating of 0.829 - slightly lower than that of Kepler-442b, a recently-discovered planet about 1,100 light years away, which is rated 0.836.
originally posted by: projectvxn
a reply to: eisegesis
I cannot wait to soak in the glory that will be the optical data from the James Webb Space Telescope..
Thank you for your post!
originally posted by: visitedbythem
search goldilocks planets first
Traditionally, astronomers have focused the search by looking for planets in their star’s “habitable zone” — more informally called the “Goldilocks zone” — which is the swath of space that’s “just right” to allow an orbiting Earth-like planet to have liquid water on its surface, perhaps giving life a chance. But so far that has been just a sort of binary designation, indicating only whether a planet is, or is not, within that area considered right for life.
“That was a great first step, but it doesn’t make any distinctions within the habitable zone,” Barnes said. “Now it’s as if Goldilocks has hundreds of bowls of porridge to choose from.”
originally posted by: Baddogma
Well, I hope they point the big, expensive scopes outward for a change... according to scuttlebutt at the local Uni's mirror factory, all the really nifty ones are pointed down at us,.