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Results and Testing the Theory

Results and Testing the Theory - runaway greenhouse effect...

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Results and Testing the Theory In the next few years, ground-based interferometers will be completed that can image large exoplanets. What about Earth-like planets? It is unlikely that life could arise on a gas giant planet. NASA's proposed Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) , a space-based mission, should be able to obtain infrared or optical pictures of life-bearing planets. With TPF astronomers will also be able to analyze the spectrum of the planets to determine the composition of their atmospheres. Spectral lines from water would say that a planet has a vital ingredient for life. If oxygen, particularly ozone (a molecule of three oxygen atoms), is found in the atmosphere, then it would be very likely that life is indeed on the planet. Recall from the previous chapter that molecular oxygen quickly disappears if it is not continually replenished by the photosynthesis process of plants and algae. However, it is conceivably possible for a few non-biological processes (e.g., the
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Unformatted text preview: runaway greenhouse effect with the photodissociation of carbon dioxide and water) to create an atmosphere rich in molecular oxygen and molecular oxygen does not produce absorption lines in the preferred infrared band that would be used in the TPF mission. Ozone does. Ozone existing along with nitrous oxide and methane in particular ratios with carbon dioxide and water, all of which produce absorption lines in the infrared, would be very strong evidence for an inhabited world. The setup and technologies TPF will employ will be based on the experience gained from previous projects such as the Keck Interferometer , the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer , Kepler , CoRot , and the Gaia Mission . Unfortunately, there are now no plans to develop TPF for at least the next decade....
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