Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hunt for extraterrestrial life gets massive methane boost

Date:
June 16, 2014
Source:
University College London
Summary:
A powerful new model to detect life on planets outside of our solar system more accurately than ever before has been developed by researchers. The new model focuses on methane, the simplest organic molecule, widely acknowledged to be a sign of potential life. The new model has been tested and verified by successfully reproducing in detail the way in which the methane in failed stars, called brown dwarfs, absorbs light.

Is there methane on this planet?
Credit: ESA (European Space Agency)

A powerful new model to detect life on planets outside of our solar system, more accurately than ever before, has been developed by UCL (University College London) researchers.

Related Articles


The new model focuses on methane, the simplest organic molecule, widely acknowledged to be a sign of potential life.

Researchers from UCL and the University of New South Wales have developed a new spectrum for 'hot' methane which can be used to detect the molecule at temperatures above that of Earth, up to 1,500K/1220C - something that was not possible before.

To find out what remote planets orbiting other stars are made of, astronomers analyze the way in which their atmospheres absorb starlight of different colors and compare it to a model, or 'spectrum', to identify different molecules.

Professor Jonathan Tennyson, (UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy) co-author of the study said: "Current models of methane are incomplete, leading to a severe underestimation of methane levels on planets. We anticipate our new model will have a big impact on the future study of planets and 'cool' stars external to our solar system, potentially helping scientists identify signs of extraterrestrial life."

The study, published in PNAS, describes how the researchers used some of the UK's most advanced supercomputers, provided by the Distributed Research utilising Advanced Computing (DiRAC) project and run by the University of Cambridge, to calculate nearly 10 billion spectroscopic lines, each with a distinct colour at which methane can absorb light. The new list of lines is 2000 times bigger than any previous study, which means it can give more accurate information across a broader range of temperatures than was previously possible.

Lead author of the study, Dr Sergei Yurchenko, (UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy) added: "The comprehensive spectrum we have created has only been possible with the astonishing power of modern supercomputers which are needed for the billions of lines required for the modelling. We limited the temperature threshold to 1,500K to fit the capacity available, so more research could be done to expand the model to higher temperatures still. Our calculations required about 3 million CPU (central processing unit) hours alone; processing power only accessible to us through the DiRAC project.

"We are thrilled to have used this technology to significantly advance beyond previous models available for researchers studying potential life on astronomical objects, and we are eager to see what our new spectrum helps them discover." he added.

The new model has been tested and verified by successfully reproducing in detail the way in which the methane in failed stars, called brown dwarfs, absorbs light.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sergei N. Yurchenko, Jonathan Tennyson, Jeremy Bailey, Morgan D. J. Hollis, and Giovanna Tinetti. Spectrum of hot methane in astronomical objects using a comprehensive computed line list. PNAS, June 2014 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1324219111

Cite This Page:

University College London. "Hunt for extraterrestrial life gets massive methane boost." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616151502.htm>.
University College London. (2014, June 16). Hunt for extraterrestrial life gets massive methane boost. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616151502.htm
University College London. "Hunt for extraterrestrial life gets massive methane boost." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616151502.htm (accessed April 19, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Computers & Math News

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

WikiLeaks Refuses To Let Sony Hack Die, Posts Database

WikiLeaks Refuses To Let Sony Hack Die, Posts Database

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) WikiLeaks&apos; Julian Assange says the hacked emails and documents "belong in the public domain." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Create Self-Powering Camera

Scientists Create Self-Powering Camera

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Apr. 17, 2015) American scientists build a self-powering camera that captures images without using an external power source, allowing it to operate indefinitely in a well-lit environment. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
The State Of Virtual Reality

The State Of Virtual Reality

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Virtual Reality is still a young industry. What’s on offer and what should we expect from our immersive new future? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cybercrime Could Cost $400 Bln

Cybercrime Could Cost $400 Bln

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2015) Representatives from around 160 countries gather at the Hague to discuss cyber space and cyber security, including the dilemmas and challenges regarding the evolution of the internet. Ciara Lee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins