NASA discovered life on a distant planet? The official reaction of scientists has emerged

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
The oceanic exoplanet is located 120 light-years away from Earth. Source: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser/NASA/collage by OBOZREVATEL

Rumors spread among the scientific community that NASA's James Webb Space Telescope had discovered a distant planet with clear signs of life. The space agency has denied this information in a sense, but not without a caveat.

The details were reported by Ars Technica. Scientists believe that even if the rumors about what the telescope discovered are false, it will still confirm its prospects.

Nicole Colon, a deputy researcher at the James Webb Exoplanet Science Project, said that no "definitive evidence" has been found so far, but there is a possibility that such an extraordinary discovery is on the horizon. However, research that could confirm the discovery of life on a distant planet will take years.

"JWST observations are expected to lead to an initial identification of potential biosignatures that may indicate the more or less likely habitability of an exoplanet," said Colon.

However, she noted that future missions will be needed "to definitively establish the habitability of the exoplanet."

The publication notes that this response is aimed at stopping the uncontrolled spread of rumors but still leaves the door open to some exciting possibilities, as NASA did not respond to the rumors with a categorical "no."

Potential biosignatures were discovered in 2023 on the exoplanet K2-18b. This is a probable oceanic world that is about 8.6 times more massive than Earth. It is located at a distance of about 120 light-years from us.

Exoplanet K2-18 b

A new wave of rumors about the discovery of life on this distant planet began to spread after an article in The Spectator entitled "Have we just discovered aliens?", which quoted authoritative figures in the astronomical community.

"Potentially, the James Webb telescope may have already found (alien life)," the publication quoted British astronaut Tim Peake as saying.

According to him, NASA "doesn't want to make these results public or confirm them until they are completely sure."

"But we have found a planet that appears to be emitting strong signals of biological life," Mr. Peake emphasized.

A molecule called dimethyl sulfide was found on K2-18b. This is a substance that is produced only by living organisms on Earth. It is not surprising that scientists believe that this world with oceans and a hydrogen-rich atmosphere could potentially be home to life.

In addition, the exoplanet is located in the so-called "habitable" zone of its star, which means that the planet's surface is neither too hot nor too cold for life forms known to mankind.

The reluctance of scientists to make a sensation out of this is explained by the fact that additional observations will be needed to confirm the telescope's data, possibly with the help of completely new instruments. Moreover, it is quite possible that dimethyl sulfide can be produced without life.

At the same time, astrophysicist Rebecca Smethurst from the University of Oxford expresses confident optimism.

"I think that very soon we will get a paper that will contain convincing evidence of biosignatures on the exoplanet," Smethurst said.

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