Life Beyond Earth: NASA Finds Key Molecule on Distant Planet

life beyond earth nasa finds key molecule on distant planet.jpg Science

In an unprecedented discovery that could redefine our understanding of life in the universe, scientists at NASA have reportedly detected signs of potential life on a planet more than 100 light years away. Utilizing the James Webb Space Telescope, the team discovered the presence of a molecule known as dimethyl sulphide (DMS) on the distant exoplanet, a compound that on Earth is exclusively produced by living organisms, primarily marine phytoplankton, as per a report by the BBC.

The planet, dubbed K2-18b, located approximately 120 light years from Earth, is nearly nine times larger than our home planet. It has already met the key criteria that researchers typically look for when assessing a planet’s habitability, such as suitable temperature, the existence of carbon, and potential for liquid water. This recent discovery of DMS on K2-18b, along with detected traces of methane and CO2 in its atmosphere, suggest the intriguing possibility of an oceanic environment, further fueling speculations about the potential for life.

NASA Detects Life-Related Molecule in Distant Planet

In an extraordinary astronomical discovery, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has detected a molecule on a distant planet over 100 light years away that, on Earth, can only be produced by life. The molecule in question is dimethyl sulphide, or DMS, according to a report from the BBC.

DMS: A Potential Indicator of Extraterrestrial Life

Professor Nikku Madhusudhan, who led the research from the University of Cambridge, explained to the BBC that on Earth, DMS is solely produced by life, with the majority of it being released into our atmosphere by marine phytoplankton. This marks the first time astronomers have discovered potential DMS in a planet orbiting a distant star.

K2-18b: A Promising Planet

Alongside DMS, NASA researchers have also found traces of methane and CO2 in the atmosphere of the planet, which has been named K2-18b. Located approximately 120 light years away, K2-18b is almost nine times the size of Earth. This distant planet had already fulfilled all the criteria researchers generally look for when assessing the likelihood of a planet being able to support life, such as its temperature, the presence of carbon, and potentially liquid water.

The Significance of DMS

The presence of DMS on this planet is a "huge deal," Madhusudhan told the BBC, underlining the need for further research and the responsibility accompanying such a significant claim. The James Webb Space Telescope examines distant planets by analyzing the light that passes through their atmosphere, which carries the chemical signatures of molecules. This process allows researchers to discern the composition of the planet’s atmosphere.

Hope for Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life

Despite the cautious optimism, the discovery has stirred excitement among the scientific community. Dr. Robert Massey, the research and deputy director of the Royal Astronomical Society in London, expressed his optimism to the BBC about the possibility of one day finding signs of life in the universe.


While it is too early to confirm life on K2-18b, the detection of DMS, a molecule associated with life on Earth, is a significant step forward in the search for extraterrestrial life. This discovery highlights the importance of continued space exploration and research, as we inch closer to answering one of humanity’s biggest questions: Are we alone in the universe?

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