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SIGNS of life on planets beyond our own solar system may soon be in our sights. Experiments and calculations presented at an astrobiology meeting last week reveal how the coming generation of space telescopes will for the first time be capable of detecting "biosignatures" in the light from planets orbiting other stars.
NASA's proposed Terrestrial Planet Finder, which could launch in the 2020s, would be powerful enough to spot oxygen-rich planets in systems much farther from Earth, even when they are not passing in front of their parent stars, because it would be able to see light reflected from the planet's surface.