Color Catalogue of Life in Ice: Surface Biosignatures on Icy Worlds
With thousands of discovered planets orbiting other stars and new missions that will explore our solar system, the search for life in the universe has entered a new era. However, a reference database to enable our search for life on the surface of icy exoplanets and exomoons by using records from Earth's icy biota is missing. Therefore, we developed a spectra catalogue of life in ice to facilitate the search for extraterrestrial signs of life. We measured the reflection spectra of 80 microorganisms—with a wide range of pigments—isolated from ice and water. We show that carotenoid signatures are wide-ranged and intriguing signs of life. Our measurements allow for the identification of such surface life on icy extraterrestrial environments in preparation for observations with the upcoming ground- and space-based telescopes. Dried samples reveal even higher reflectance, which suggests that signatures of surface biota could be more intense on exoplanets and moons that are drier than Earth or on environments like Titan where potential life-forms may use a different solvent.Our spectra library covers the visible to near-infrared and is available online. It provides a guide for the search for surface life on icy worlds based on biota from Earth's icy environments.
- Pub Date:
- March 2022
- Earth Science