Exoplanet Hunters Rethink Search for Alien Life

Steve Desch can see the future of exoplanet research, and it’s not pretty. Imagine, he says, that astronomers use NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to scour the atmosphere of an Earth-mass world for signs of life. Then imagine that they chase hints of atmospheric oxygen for years-before realizing that those were false positives produced by geological activity instead of living things.