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Prospects for detecting biomarkers in exoplanetary impact ejecta

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Remotely assessing the presence of life on an extrasolar planet is one of the great challenges of modern astrophysics. So far, most efforts have been dedicated to looking for bio-signatures in planetary atmospheres (presence of out-of-equilibrium species like 02, 03 or methane) or reflectance spectra (« red edge » due to vegetation cover). I will present a recent study that has assessed an alternative way of detecting life, by looking for biomarkers in surface and sub-surface material ejected after a violent collision on an exoplanet. We consider impacts by cometary of asteroidal bodies on Earth, Mars and Lunar-sized targets and evaluate, for each scenario, the amount of material that can escape without being reprocessed or melted. We estimate the collisional evolution of the produced dust and its detectability by current and future instruments. We explore the possibility for spectroscopic analysis and the identification of calcite, silica and reflected light from micro-organisms.

This talk is part of the Exoplanet Seminars series.

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