Off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island and more than 3,000 feet beneath the ocean surface lie the warm, bubbling springs of a volcano — a deep-sea location that may hold lessons for the search for extraterrestrial life.
Last year, NASA astronomers announced the discovery of a solar system with seven Earth-like planets. The TRAPPIST-1 system marked not only the highest number of Earth-like planets ever found around a star, but also the highest number in the “habitable zone,” a region where temperatures aren’t so extreme as to extinguish the planets’ chances of supporting life.
So far, the search for extraterrestrial life has primarily centered on finding two basic clues on alien planets: the presence of water above or below the planet’s surface and significant levels of oxygen in its atmosphere. However, in a new study published in the journal Science Advances, a team of scientists from the University of Washington (UW) detail a novel biosignature search strategy not limited solely to oxygen levels.