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September 26, 2019 Thursday 05:28:31 AM IST

Biofluorescence to detect life in cosmos

Science Innovations

Astronomers have uncovered a new way of searching for life in the cosmos. Harsh ultraviolet radiation flares from red suns, once thought to destroy surface life on planets, might help uncover hidden biospheres. Their radiation could trigger a protective glow from life on exoplanets called biofluorescence, according to new Cornell University research.

Ultraviolet rays can get absorbed into longer, safer wavelengths through a process called ‘photoprotective biofluorescence’, and that mechanism leaves a specific sign for which astronomers can search. 

Such biofluorescence could expose hidden biospheres on new worlds through their temporary glow, when a flare from a star hits the planet. The astronomers used emission characteristics of common coral fluorescent pigments from Earth to create model spectra and colours for planets orbiting active M stars to mimic the strength of the signal and whether it could be detected for life.This is a completely novel way to search for life in the universe.


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