An Inconvenient Truth About Exoplanet Biosignatures

July 16, 2014 12:58 AM

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An Inconvenient Truth About Exoplanet Biosignatures

"Do you think we could be easily misled by an exo-Moon?" my colleague and friend Hanno Rein, astronomy professor at the University of Toronto, had just texted me from Toronto as I was on a train from Zurich to Paris. "Suppose the planet has a lot of oxygen and the moon a lot of methane," he continued. "If you can't resolve the bodies it might look like disequilibrium chemistry."

I immediately realized he was right, and his insight was important. After a rapid-fire exchange of texts, we hashed out a plan to model this type of system and see whether a planet-moon pair could spoof signs of life, and we invited Yuka Fujii, a friend and colleague of ours who had previously done ...

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