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Moon's reflected earthshine 'could aid search for exoplanet aliens'

London , Thu, 01 Mar 2012 ANI

London, Mar 1 (ANI): A new analysis of Earthshine - sunlight reflected off the Earth and then bounced back by the moon, suggests that this is a practical way to seek life on exoplanets.


Life co-exists with certain chemicals that leave their imprints on the light that the Earth reflects, while plants reflect light differently to rocks. The problem faced is that exoplanets are too faint as compared to their host stars for such distinctions to be detected.


For the study, Michael Sterzik and his colleagues from the European Southern Observatory in Santiago, Chile, used a spectrograph mounted on the Very Large Telescope to examine polarised Earthshine, with its light waves aligned in one plane, New Scientist reported.


The reflection of light off a planet's surface and passage through the atmosphere cause it to become polarised, making it visible in the midst of the glare of unpolarised starlight.


According to Nature, the researchers found that light signatures of oxygen, ozone and water, as well as an increase in reflected wavelengths characteristic of vegetation. (ANI)


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