👋 Hey Friends,
welcome back to a new episode of the Sunday Night Sky, the newsletter where we explore and learn about new scientific achievements, astrophysical, mathematical, and physical theories to understand the world around us a little better.
In the last few episodes we have explored the lands of quantum physics and fractal geometry to understand what the seemingly weirdness of modern science is actually saying and what it states for our reality.
But today we want to dive into on of the few questions every human when not even all of humankind has ever asked themselves: are we alone in this gigantuous universe? So let's try to understand the history of The Search for Extraterrestrial Life.
The search for extraterrestrial life is, for me and for all of humanity, one of the most exciting and intriguing areas of scientific research today. As stated before humans have wondered for centuries, decades when not even millenia wether we are alone in the universe, and in recent years, scientist have made significant progress in answering exactly that question.
One of the most important and revolutionary developments in finding extraterrestrial life was the discovery of the first exoplanet back in 1992 when the radio astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail announced the discovery of two planets orbiting the pulsar PSR 1257+12. Since then over 5,000 more exoplanets have been found due the advancement in telescope technology and the fantastic work done by scientists all around the world.
🌤️ Detection of atmospherical elements
But how do we actually want to find out wether or not a planet has life on it or not? We cannot not just zoom in on the planet and just take a picture of whatever is on there, right?
Sadly that isn't yet possible. Space is just to huge to zoom onto a planet and take a picture. If you would take a picture of the moon right now it would be impossible to see a possible living thing. And when observing exoplanets thats exactly the same except that these planets are not 384,000 kilometres but thousands of light-years way. So we have to find some other way to determine if a planet can hold life on it or not.
One of the most promising methods for doing this is through the analysis of their atmosphere. Astronomers can use powerful telescopes to study the light that passes through an exoplanet's atmosphere, looking for telltale signs of gases that may be produced by living organisms, such as oxygen or methane. And we can detect those gases since they "steal" some of the light which is reflected of the planet. Okay, but what do I mean by that?
Seen above is a so called atmospheric composition of the hot gas giant exoplanet WASP-39 b and it shows what kind of molecules are present in the planets atmosphere. The y-axis shows the amount in percentage of the molecule and the x-axis shows the wavelength of light.
If some light bounces through a molecule or an atom it causes that the light itself changes a little due the interference with the molecule. We can observe these interferences as little missing or added spots within the electromagnetic spectrum of the observed light and since we know what molecules and atoms cause what kind of interferences we know by observing the reflected different wavelengths of light which atoms and molecules are present in the planets atmosphere.
For me, that's just incredible. I mean think about it for a second. Only by observing the light of certain planets which are billions of kilometres away we can identify which elements are within the planets atmosphere, isn't that wonderful and mind blowing?
Another approach to the search for extraterrestrial life is through the study of extremophiles - organisms that are capable of surviving in extreme environments on Earth, such as deep-sea hydrothermal vents or the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. Scientists believe that if life exists on other planets, it may be similar to these hardy organisms that can survive in harsh conditions.
Despite these advances, the search for extraterrestrial life is still in its early stages, and there is much we don't know. There are many unanswered questions, such as how common life is in the universe, or what types of environments are most likely to support life.
But even as we continue to explore these mysteries, the search for extraterrestrial life has already taught us a great deal about the universe we live in. It has sparked our curiosity and imagination, and it has challenged us to think in new and exciting ways.
As always, stay curious and keep exploring!
Victor Thierling, @observethecosmos
🎥 Youtube Video
The true nature of e (Euler's number)
What is e, what is a derivative and why are exponentials proportional to their own derivative? We find the answers to these question by finding visual and algebraic evidence in order to gain more mathematical intuition for any problem. Dive down the roots and beauty of calculus and learn what it has to do with 2.7182...
✍️ Quote of the week
“Two possibilities: Either we are alone in the universe, ore we are not. Both are equally terrfiying.”
-Arthur C. Clarke
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