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Successful First Test for the LIFE Telescope: Biosignatures Detected on Earth.

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The search for life beyond Earth is a topic that has captivated humanity for centuries. With the advancement of technology, scientists are now able to explore exoplanets in search of biosignatures that could indicate the presence of life. Recently, a new telescope called LIFE (Large Interferometer for Exoplanets) passed its first test by successfully detecting biosignatures on Earth. This groundbreaking achievement has opened up new possibilities in the field of astrobiology.

LIFE is an interferometer consisting of five separate telescopes that work together to expand the telescope’s working size. Developed by ETH Zurich in Switzerland, LIFE is designed to observe in the mid-infrared range, where important bioindicative chemicals like ozone, methane, and nitrous oxide can be found. The telescope will be located at Lagrange Point 2, about 1.5 million km away, where it will observe a list of exoplanets in search of biosignatures.

In a recent study published in The Astronomical Journal, researchers tested LIFE’s capabilities by using Earth’s atmosphere as a test case. By treating Earth as an exoplanet and analyzing its atmospheric spectrum in different conditions, the researchers were able to validate LIFE’s ability to detect biosignatures. The results of the study showed that LIFE was able to detect CO2, water, ozone, and methane on Earth, as well as surface conditions indicating the presence of liquid water.

One of the key challenges in exoplanet research is observing planets from different angles and accounting for seasonal variations. The researchers used data from Earth’s atmospheric observations to simulate different scenarios and determine how observational geometry and seasonal variations would affect LIFE’s observations. The results showed that while some targets could be observed in just a few days, others may require up to 100 days of observation to detect relevant abundances.

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Overall, the study demonstrated the potential of LIFE as a powerful tool for detecting biosignatures on exoplanets. Compared to other proposed missions like NASA’s Habitable Worlds Observatory, the researchers concluded that LIFE is the best option for systematically searching for biosignatures in exoplanetary systems with global biospheres producing specific chemical signals.

The successful detection of biosignatures on Earth by the LIFE telescope is a significant milestone in the search for life beyond our solar system. As technology continues to advance, scientists are hopeful that telescopes like LIFE will pave the way for new discoveries and shed light on the mysteries of the universe.

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Chats and reflections on the present moment.

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Lydia Polgreen

Credit…Will Heath/NBC, via Getty Images

It is a rare thing in our rapidly secularizing country to be confronted with piety and devotion in popular culture. So it was a surprise, and a balm, to watch a man who prays daily and talks openly about his devout faith storm a bastion of earthly godlessness: “Saturday Night Live.”

I am referring, of course, to the comedian Ramy Youssef, who hosted the show on what he described in his opening monologue as “an incredibly spiritual weekend,” noting Ramadan, Easter and the arrival of a new Beyoncé album.

“I’m doing the Ramadan one,” he quipped, to peals of laughter, unspooling a very funny bit about how loving Muslims are. Youssef has mined his experience as a believer among the profane in gentle standup specials and a namesake sitcom. His entire monologue glowed with a welcoming warmth — Muslims, he seemed to say: We’re just like you.

In a country that is supposedly obsessed with diversity and inclusion, it is remarkable how rare it is to hear from a practicing Muslim in America.

Surveys by the Institute for Policy and Understanding, a nonpartisan research organization focused on Muslim Americans, have consistently found that Muslims are the most likely group to report religious discrimination in the United States. According to a Pew survey conducted in 2021, 78 percent of Americans said that there was either a lot or some discrimination against Muslims in our society. Muslims are no more likely to commit crimes than members of any other group, but crimes in which Muslims are suspects get outsized media coverage, research has shown.

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It is no surprise, then, that Islamophobia is perhaps the most tolerated form of religious prejudice. Right now, Senate Republicans appear to have persuaded several Senate Democrats to vote against a Muslim judicial nominee after smearing him, with no evidence at all, as an antisemite.

Many of the skits that toyed with religion on “S.N.L.” on Saturday were funny — Ozempic for Ramadan! Genius. But part of me winced through them as well, because I saw in Youssef something that other members of minority groups have had to do to “earn” their place in the safety of the mainstream: the performance of normalcy, of being nonthreatening and sweet, the requirement to prove that your community belongs in America just like everyone else’s.

I loved Youssef’s monologue, in which he bravely pleaded, “Please, free the people of Palestine. And please, free the hostages. All of the hostages.”

“I am out of ideas,” Youssef declared toward the end of his monologue. “All I have is prayers.”

To which this nonbeliever can only say: Same, Ramy. Same.

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