To better help researchers recognize the composition of terrestrial exoplanets outside of our solar system, researchers from MIT and Caltech have proposed a means through which to identify chemical signatures on other rocky worlds – through studying planets in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.
While the end goal would help researchers achieve a better understanding of the prevalence of Earth-like planets within our own galaxy, these methods are currently being aimed at ‘airless’ rocky worlds. As the article continues, “By having similar objects in our solar system, notably our moon, Mars, and Mercury, the team may be able to compare detected minerals in the solar system against signatures from rocky exoplanets.”
Though current space-based observatories do not possess the necessary hardware in order to identify exoplanet surfaces, the much-coveted James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is thought to have the potential for such detection of rocky exteriors on planets elsewhere in the galaxy. While the JWST is not to be launched until 2018, determining the surface composition of an exoplanet will provide researchers with important information regarding geological history, and most grippingly, the odds of hosting life.
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