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When a planet passes in front of its star, starlight shines through the planet's atmosphere and continues through space until it reaches us. Dimers in the atmosphere absorb light like a color filter on a camera lens, creating anomalies detectable once the pressure of the planet is at least 0.25 bars—high enough to hold down liquid water.
...The presence of oxygen is believed to be a reliable sign of life, wherever it is found...
A new technique to detect atmospheric oxygen on worlds orbiting other stars will come online as early as 2018. The James Webb space telescope, set to be launched that year will be the first telescope to be able to use this technique. The presence of oxygen is believed to be a reliable sign of life, wherever it is found.
io9.com...edit on 10-3-2014 by Ross 54 because: corrected link address