ASTROBIOLOGY-The View From Earth

As technology improves, so does our ability to observe stars and planets well beyond our own solar system. And we continue to wonder what, if anything, might be out there looking at us. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

“In the last two years we have finally been able to discover planets around other stars, something we dreamed of doing for centuries.”

David Morrison is Director of Space at NASA’s Ames Research Center. He tells us that in the search for other life in the universe, we begin by looking at ourselves.

“So far, we can only see giant planets. Our instruments are only sensitive enough to detect giant planets. But in the next decade we will be pushing on to the search for planets like Earth. Terrestrial planets around other stars. And when we discover them, as I am confident we will, then we will have to ask what would we look for on a distant planet as a possible signature of life, and to answer this we have to go back and trace the history of life on our own planet. Today, there are aspects of the Earth that clearly provide a signature of life, such as the presence of abundant oxygen in our atmosphere. But two billion years ago, even though life flourished on Earth, there was not oxygen in the atmosphere. Only by retracing the history of life on Earth, something we have not completely done, can we understand what the signatures of life might be on distant planets that we could detect with our telescopes.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

ASTROBIOLOGY-The View From Earth

What other planets in the galaxy will reveal the signature signs of life?
Air Date:03/09/1999
Scientist:
Transcript:

As technology improves, so does our ability to observe stars and planets well beyond our own solar system. And we continue to wonder what, if anything, might be out there looking at us. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"In the last two years we have finally been able to discover planets around other stars, something we dreamed of doing for centuries."

David Morrison is Director of Space at NASA's Ames Research Center. He tells us that in the search for other life in the universe, we begin by looking at ourselves.

"So far, we can only see giant planets. Our instruments are only sensitive enough to detect giant planets. But in the next decade we will be pushing on to the search for planets like Earth. Terrestrial planets around other stars. And when we discover them, as I am confident we will, then we will have to ask what would we look for on a distant planet as a possible signature of life, and to answer this we have to go back and trace the history of life on our own planet. Today, there are aspects of the Earth that clearly provide a signature of life, such as the presence of abundant oxygen in our atmosphere. But two billion years ago, even though life flourished on Earth, there was not oxygen in the atmosphere. Only by retracing the history of life on Earth, something we have not completely done, can we understand what the signatures of life might be on distant planets that we could detect with our telescopes."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.