Scientists at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have concluded that detecting the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere of an exoplanet no longer indicates the existence of life on that planet. The research results of the physicists of this university have been published in Science Advances magazine.
Previously, it was thought that the presence of oxygen could indicate life on a planet. Photosynthesizing organisms on the planet absorb carbon dioxide, sunlight and water and produce sugar and starch to provide energy. Oxygen is a byproduct of this process. Therefore, its existence indicates the existence of life on a planet.
However, scientists have identified a non-living source of oxygen that comes from sulfur dioxide. Sulfur is an element that is often found in celestial bodies. The energetic radiation of a star in the air can ionize the sulfur dioxide molecule. This phenomenon can cause the appearance of oxygen in the atmosphere. According to researchers, this method of producing oxygen can also be implemented on planet Earth. Scientists will continue to study more in this field in the future. They will also seek to discover other molecules that can produce oxygen when ionized.