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Laughing Gas 'Nitrous Oxide' In Space A Sign Of Extraterrestrial Life, Claim Scientists

Indiatimes logo Indiatimes 11-10-2022 Sumedha Tripathi
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There have been several theories indicating that life outside earth exists. There's also talk of how we were unaware of the existence of extraterrestrial life for the longest time. From enthusiasts talking about it to sci-fi movies covering the topic, the idea of aliens in space seems like a mystery that still hasn't been solved yet. 

Laughing Gas in space a sign aliens exist, claim scientists

But along with fiction, scientists too have been working on collecting some sort of evidence of alien life. Now, a group of astrobiologists is claiming that the presence of Laughing Gas in a distant planet's atmosphere could indicate the presence of life.

Laughing Gas, which is made of 'nitrous oxide' is a greenhouse gas emitted by plants, making it a biosignature or a compound in the atmosphere generated by a living thing.

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Biosignature include gases that are abundantly found in Earth's atmosphere. 

Scientists at the University of California Riverside (UCR) mentioned that the presence of nitrous oxide could mean that there is life on planets other than earth. 

Astrobiologist Eddie Schwieterman and the other scientists from UCR believe that the scientific community has always largely overlooked Laughing Gas as an indicator of life.

"There’s been a lot of thought put into oxygen and methane as biosignatures. Fewer researchers have seriously considered nitrous oxide, but we think that may be a mistake," explained Eddie Schwieterman. 

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Nitrous oxide is composed of living things

Nitrous oxide is generally used as a sedative to bring relief from pain. It is generally used by dentists. It is also called whippets because small canisters of it are abused as a party drug.

The biggest quality of this gas is that it is made up of living things. "Life generates nitrogen waste products that are converted by some microorganisms into nitrates. In a fish tank, these nitrates build up, which is why you have to change the water," explained Schwieterman.

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Nitrous oxide has not been granted as much attention as a potential biosignature as other atmospheric compounds. The UC Riverside scientists hope their report will garner attention from the wider scientific community after what they have found. Their findings were published in The Astrophysical Journal. 

The scientists found out about this by calculating how much nitrous oxide living things on a planet like Earth could possibly produce. Once they had figured out this calculation, they had to construct planetary models around different stars to apply the findings of the deductions.

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