Alien hunters tell NASA where it should point powerful JWST to find ET

Powerful cosmos examining tools such as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is scheduled for launch next year, will be used to analyse the biosignature – traces of life – of planets. NASA will use the tool to look for life in the cosmos, or at least that will be one of its purposes.

Now, research has found the best place to look for biosignatures is on rocky planets orbiting white dwarf stars.

White dwarfs are dead stars which have shrunk down – a fate which awaits our own Sun in about five billion years.

As they shrink, they pull in nearby material. Because white dwarfs are much fainter, scientists can analyse materials without the brightness of a relatively newer star.

What is more is white dwarf stars are typically older than others, logically meaning life has had a better chance to evolve over billions of years.

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A new study published in Astrophysical Journal Letters also stated planets around these stars are more likely to be rocky and Earth-like.

Lisa Kaltenegger, associate professor of astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Carl Sagan Institute, said: “Rocky planets around white dwarfs are intriguing candidates to characterize because their hosts are not much bigger than Earth-size planets.

“We wanted to know if light from a white dwarf – a long-dead star – would allow us to spot life in a planet’s atmosphere if it were there.

“If we would find signs of life on planets orbiting under the light of long-dead stars, the next intriguing question would be whether life survived the star’s death or started all over again – a second genesis, if you will.”

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JWST still has to undergo testing before its scheduled launch in 2021, when it will replace the ageing Hubble Telescope as the premier set of eyes on the sky.

Scientists are optimistic the JWST will help unravel the mysteries of the Universe and potentially find alien life.

The infrared machine is so powerful it will reach back to the furthest realms and the earliest moments of space and time.

And the JWST, which is named after NASA’s second administrator James Webb who served from 1961 to 1968 and who played a major part in the Apollo missions, has the capability of scanning thousands of planets for alien life – even though those planets are thousands of light-years away.

As well as seeing further into space it will accurately measure the content of water, carbon dioxide and other components in the atmosphere of an exoplanet – a planet outside of our solar system – as well as tell scientists more about the size and distance these planets are from their host stars.

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