Sulfur may indicate signs of life on exoplanets

Sulfur may indicate signs of life on exoplanets

If sulfur is present in the atmosphere of any planet or exoplanet, this may mean that there is life on this planet. So say researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Their findings are based on laboratory tests. In the course of the experiments, scientists proved that sulfur can give new knowledge about the possible signs of life on distant planets. Scientists want to learn as much as possible about exoplanets and planets outside the solar system.

That is, they want to know about the atmosphere of these planets. If sulfur is present in the planet’s atmosphere, this may mean that there are primitive life forms on the planet. Chao He, an assistant research fellow at Johns Hopkins University, says that even a small presence of sulfur can be a confirmation of an important fact.

If there is two per cent sulfur in the atmosphere, then this indicates the presence of life. This fact completely changes the understanding of science about how and where to look for extraterrestrial life. Sulfur gases affect the photochemistry of many planets in the solar system. Among them are Earth, Venus and Jupiter.

But nothing is known about the role of sulfur outside the solar system, as well as in the atmosphere of exoplanets. This most important element is distinguished by life forms, including plants and bacteria. Sulfur is also found in several amino acids and bacteria. Scientists believe that if you focus on the search for sulfur in the atmospheres of distant planets, then this can also bring its result.

But first, you need to find out if there is sulfur outside the solar system, or at least in the atmosphere of exoplanets. The researchers conducted a series of interesting experiments, simulating the creation of the atmosphere of planets with sulfur in it. The experiments were carried out in laboratory conditions.

Sulfur has high reactivity, it manifested itself even in an experimental setup, so we had to modernize the equipment to continue the experiments. And in the end, the first experiment was conducted to create a model for studying sulfur in the atmospheres of exoplanets.

The laboratory used carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen, hydrogen, water and helium to create the initial gas mixtures. One experiment included 1.6% sulfur in the mixture, and the other did not.

The experiment was conducted in a special chamber. In it, gas mixtures were exposed to energy sources. As a result, particles formed, which were products of organic sulfur, and not sulfuric acid. This important conclusion will now allow with new knowledge to approach the search for extraterrestrial life.