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Search for Extraterrestrial Life Gets Massive Boost

Researchers have established a new spectrum for “hot” methane, which can be used to spot the molecule at temperatures overhead that of Earth, up to 2230° Fahrenheit, something which was not promising before. A great new model to spot life on planets outdoor our solar system more precisely than ever before has been established by University College London (UCL) scientists. The new model emphases on methane, the simplest organic molecule, extensively recognized to be a symbol of possible life. Scientists from UCL and the University of New South Wales have advanced a new spectrum for “hot” methane, which can be used to spot the molecule at temperatures over the Earth, up to 2230° Fahrenheit i.e. 1220° Celsius, something which was not conceivable earlier. To learn what remote planets orbiting other stars are prepared of, astrophysicists examine the way in which their atmospheres grip starlight of various colors and compare it to a model, or “spectrum,” to recognize different molecules.
An artist's concept of HD 189733b and its parent star. Credit: NASA/ESA/STScI (G. Bacon)
Jonathan Tennyson from UCL said "Current models of methane are incomplete, leading to a severe underestimation of methane levels on planets. We anticipate our new model will have a big impact on the future study of planets and cool stars external to our solar system, potentially helping scientists identify signs of extraterrestrial life."

The study defines how scientists used some of the United Kingdom’s most progressive supercomputers, delivered by the Distributed Research utilizing Advanced Computing (DiRAC) project and directed by the University of Cambridge, to analyze approximately 10 billion spectroscopic lines, individually with a different color at which methane can grip light. The new list of lines is 2,000 times larger than any earlier study, which means it can give more precise info across a wider variety of temperatures than was previously possible. Sergei Yurchenko said "The comprehensive spectrum we have created has only been possible with the astonishing power of modern supercomputers, which are needed for the billions of lines required for the modeling. We limited the temperature threshold to 2250° F (1230° C) to fit the capacity available so more research could be done to expand the model to higher temperatures still. Our calculations required about 3 million central processing unit hours alone, processing power only accessible to us through the DiRAC project”

The new model has been confirmed and tested by positively repeating in detail the way in which the methane in failed stars, termed brown dwarfs, engrosses light.

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