Zurich Researchers Identify Earth as Habitable Planet

Zurich – A research team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and the University of Zurich has confirmed that traces of life can be detected on exoplanets using the technology of the future LIFE space mission. To come to this conclusion, the Earth was examined like an exoplanet.

The technology planned for the future space mission LIFE (Large Interferometer for Exoplanets) is capable of recognizing whether an exoplanet is habitable or not. This has now been confirmed by physicists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich(ETH) and the University of Zurich. According to an ETH report, the unique thing about their research is that this technology was not tested on simulated models, but on real conditions, namely those on Earth.

The plan is for the international LIFE initiative, led by ETH Zurich, to position five smaller satellites in space where the James Webb telescope is stationed. Together they will form a large telescope that will act as an interferometer to capture the thermal radiation of exoplanets in the infrared range. "Chemical compounds are to be detected in the light spectrum that indicate life on the exoplanets," Sascha Quanz is quoted as saying. He heads the LIFE initiative.

The most important research finding of this study is that if a space telescope like LIFE were to observe the planet Earth from a distance of around 30 light years, it would find evidence of a temperate, habitable world. The team was able to detect concentrations of the atmospheric gases CO2, water, ozone and methane in the infrared spectra of the Earth's atmosphere, as well as surface conditions that favor the presence of water.

In addition - and this is also a valuable finding - it does not matter from which angle the exoplanet is examined by the LIFE telescope. According to Quanz, the study shows "that next-generation space missions will be able to assess whether nearby, temperate, Earth-like exoplanets are habitable or even inhabited". ce/mm

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