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Title: Abiotic ozone and oxygen in atmospheres similar to prebiotic Earth

The search for life on planets outside our solar system will use spectroscopic identification of atmospheric biosignatures. The most robust remotely detectable potential biosignature is considered to be the detection of oxygen (O{sub 2}) or ozone (O{sub 3}) simultaneous to methane (CH{sub 4}) at levels indicating fluxes from the planetary surface in excess of those that could be produced abiotically. Here we use an altitude-dependent photochemical model with the enhanced lower boundary conditions necessary to carefully explore abiotic O{sub 2} and O{sub 3} production on lifeless planets with a wide variety of volcanic gas fluxes and stellar energy distributions. On some of these worlds, we predict limited O{sub 2} and O{sub 3} buildup, caused by fast chemical production of these gases. This results in detectable abiotic O{sub 3} and CH{sub 4} features in the UV-visible, but no detectable abiotic O{sub 2} features. Thus, simultaneous detection of O{sub 3} and CH{sub 4} by a UV-visible mission is not a strong biosignature without proper contextual information. Discrimination between biological and abiotic sources of O{sub 2} and O{sub 3} is possible through analysis of the stellar and atmospheric context—particularly redox state and O atom inventory—of the planet in question. Specifically, understanding the spectralmore » characteristics of the star and obtaining a broad wavelength range for planetary spectra should allow more robust identification of false positives for life. This highlights the importance of wide spectral coverage for future exoplanet characterization missions. Specifically, discrimination between true and false positives may require spectral observations that extend into infrared wavelengths and provide contextual information on the planet's atmospheric chemistry.« less
Authors:
 [1] ; ; ; ;  [2]
  1. Planetary Environments Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, 8800 Greenbelt Road, Greenbelt, MD 20771 (United States)
  2. NASA Astrobiology Institute—Virtual Planetary Laboratory (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22365135
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 792; Journal Issue: 2; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY; BOUNDARY CONDITIONS; DETECTION; ENERGY SPECTRA; GLOBAL ASPECTS; INTERACTIONS; METHANE; OXYGEN; PHOTOCHEMISTRY; PLANETS; SATELLITE ATMOSPHERES; SOLAR SYSTEM; STARS; ULTRAVIOLET RADIATION