Scientists in search of other intelligent life in the universe have been looking for a variety of different clues about other planets out there, and their ability to harbor life similar to humans. It is important to note that life could take form in many types of environments that aren't suitable for humans, and this much has been proven by samples of strange microbes collected from inhospitable regions of the earth.
Still, most scientists believe that our best shot in finding creatures like us is through seeking out other places in the universe with similar chemical compositions, the most important of which being water and oxygen.
The nearest quasar to Earth, Markarian 231, is a planned target for #NASAWebb. Webb will study the quasar at this galaxy’s core to learn how its pair of supermassive black holes impacts star formation and interstellar material. More about the object: https://t.co/NjocQGqhsQ pic.twitter.com/Fm9mGBOmlH
— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) February 17, 2020
In a recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal, a team led by Junzhi Wang, an astronomer at the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, says that they discovered oxygen in a faraway galaxy called "Markarian 231" which is located 581 million light-years away from the Milky Way that we call home.
Wang and his team used the ‘IRAM 30 m telescope and the Northern Extended Millimeter Array Interferometer’ to find what they describe as the ‘11–10 transition of molecular oxygen.’
This is only the third time in the past 20 years that oxygen has been detected elsewhere in the universe, but both of those other findings were in our own galaxy. Scientists have also discovered oxygen in the Rho Ophiuchi cloud which is 350 light-years away from earth and also in the Orion Nebula, which is 1,344 light-years away from Earth.
Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, is located 581 million light-years away. The quasar itself is the bright, starlike point. Its glow comes from material swirling around a pair of supermassive black holes at the galaxy’s center. pic.twitter.com/EnRLqyIJCr
— 407 Dank (@407Dank) February 17, 2020
Markarian 231 was discovered back in 1969, and even though it is extremely far way, it is still the closest quasar that we know about, according to Swinburne University.
The researchers caution that these findings do not necessarily mean that humans would be able to survive in this environment, because there are other vital chemical compounds that humans need to breathe and survive, including nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane.
In their study, the researchers said that new astrochemical models are needed to explain the implied high molecular oxygen abundance "in such regions several kiloparsecs away from the center of galaxies."
Last year, scientists announced the discovery of a habitable planet that also contained water, for the first time in history. The planet is called “K2-18b” and astronomers say that it could even contain alien life. The planet is massive, and is estimated to be more than double the size of the earth. Scientists do not currently have the technology to determine whether or not there are any living creatures on the planet, right now they only know that it has water. However, it is estimated that in the next ten years scientists will have telescopes powerful enough to detect gasses in the planet’s atmosphere which could give clues as to what is taking place on the surface.
The findings were published in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.
The lead scientist, Prof Giovanna Tinetti of University College London (UCL) said that this planet seems to be in the perfect environment to sustain life, just like earth. Tinetti says that this is the first time that researchers were able to detect water on a planet that is in a habitable zone with temperatures in the proper range.