The Drake Equation Revisited: Interview with Planet Hunter Sara Seager
By Devin Powell
Astrobiology Magazine / www.space.com
". . . two inhabited planets could reasonably turn up during the next decade"
Planet hunters keep finding distant worlds that bear a resemblance to Earth. Some of the thousands of exoplanet candidates discovered to date have similar sizes or temperatures. Others possess rocky surfaces and support atmospheres. But no world has yet provided an unambiguous sign of the characteristic that still sets our pale blue dot apart: the presence of life.
That may be about to change, says exoplanet expert Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Upcoming NASA missions such as the Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey (TESS) and the James Webb Space Telescope, both due to launch around 2018, should be able to find and characterize Earth-like planets orbiting small stars.
Spotting signs of life on those planets will be possible because of progress in detecting not only planets, but their atmospheres as well. When a planet passes in front of its host star, atmospheric gases reveal their presence by absorbing some of the starlight. Oxygen, water vapor or other gases that do not belong on dead worlds could very well provide the first evidence of life elsewhere. . . .
Continue Reading . . .
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