Scientists believe existence of laughing gas in space points to proof of aliens

Scientists believe that the existence of a party drug in space points to proof of aliens.

Nitrous oxide, better known as whippets or laughing gas, could be an indicator for whether there is life on other planets, according to a paper published by scientists at the University of California Riverside.

The new paper published in the Astrophysics Journal, suggests that the concept that space could be full of the same stuff that earthlings inhale for a quick high, could also be a new indicator for whether or not a planet is habitable.

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"Fewer researchers have seriously considered nitrous oxide," UCR astrobiologist Eddie Schwieterman said in a press release, "but we think that may be a mistake."

Schwieterman and his team at UC Riverside's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences calculated how regularly living organisms produce nitrous oxide, and then entered that data into a planetary model.

They then determined that habitable exoplanets with nitrous oxide-rich atmospheres could be detected by tech like the James Webb Space Telescope.

While there are some non-biological situations that produce nitrous oxide, such as the small amount released by lightning strikes, the UCR team accounted for that possibility in its modelling, and noted that lightning also releases nitrogen dioxide, which could also be detected in small levels and used to rule a planet out.

Others who've considered nitrous oxide as a bio-signature have, as the press release noted, pointed out that the compound doesn't exist in high quantities in Earth's atmosphere in spite of the billions upon billions of life forms living here.

But Schweiterman said that the conclusions don't "account for periods in Earth's history where ocean conditions would have allowed for much greater biological release of [nitrous oxide]".

"Conditions in those periods might mirror where an exoplanet is today," he said

With the JWST offering the greatest space data-collecting capabilities to date, the UCR team hopes their fellow scientists will begin taking the nitrous oxide-as-bio-signature hypothesis seriously.


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