Alien-life hunters should keep an open mind when scanning the atmospheres of exoplanets, a new study stresses.
The time-honored strategy of looking for oxygen is indeed a good one, study team members said; after all, it’s tough for this gas to build up in a planet’s atmosphere if life isn’t there churning it out.
“But we don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket,” study lead author Joshua Krissansen-Totton, a doctoral student in Earth and space sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a statement.
“Even if life is common in the cosmos, we have no idea if it will be life that makes oxygen,” Krissansen-Totton added. “The biochemistry of oxygen production is very complex and could be quite rare.”