Studying the atmospheres of exoplanets is an essential step to finding another habitable world. Fortunately, we don't even have to travel through space to do it! Because different gases absorb or scatter light in different ways, astronomers can identify the spectral "fingerprints" of these gases by looking at light. Light that has passed through or bounced off of another planet's atmosphere can therefore tell us about what's in that atmosphere, and whether a lifeform with a respiratory system like ours could survive in it.
How Do We Know What Air is Like on Other Planets?
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Key Facts In This Video
Scientists can study the air on other planets by looking at the light that bounces off or shines through their atmospheres. 00:28
Many exoplanets have been discovered because they pass in front of their parent star, creating a dip in the overall intensity of the star's light. 01:18
The "fingerprints" of different gases can be difficult to locate and analyze in the atmospheres of exoplanets due to a variety of factors. 01:40