Scientists explore for chemical components like oxygen or methane on planets beyond our solar system. New research suggests laughing gas (nitrous oxide, N2O) should also be examined
In a report published Tuesday in The Astrophysical Journal, researchers from UCR, Purdue, AU, MIT, and NASA Goddard describe N2O as a "compelling planetary biosignature gas."
NASA defines biosignatures as "evidence for past or current life." This includes atmospheric gases.
Oxygen and methane are considered biosignatures. Fewer researchers have explored nitrous oxide, but that may be a mistake, said UC Riverside astrobiologist Eddie Schwieterman.
N2O is known for its usage in anaesthetic and pain treatment, but that's not why astrobiologists are interested. Living creatures make N2O.
In the study, researchers constructed models to mimic how live creatures may generate N2O in "an Earthlike marine ecosystem" while accounting for other nonlife sources.