Scientists have developed a new method for detecting oxygen in exoplanet atmospheres that may accelerate the search for life.

One possible indication of life, or biosignature, is the presence of oxygen in an exoplanet’s atmosphere. Oxygen is generated by life on Earth when organisms such as plants, algae, and cyanobacteria use photosynthesis to convert sunlight into chemical energy.

UC Riverside helped develop the new technique, which will use NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to detect a strong signal that oxygen molecules produce when they collide. This signal could help scientists distinguish between living and nonliving planets.

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