How Hairspray May Help Us Find Extraterrestrial Life

In an article in Astrobiology Magazine Charles Q. Choi examines the possibility that artificial chemicals may point the way to life on other planets.

At one time we used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in air conditioners and products like hairspray. We stopped using them because they are strong greenhouse gasses and damaging to the Earth's ozone layer. If evidence of such damage can be found on exoplanets it would be a strong indicator of life because CFCs are not naturally occurring in any way that we know of.
CFCs are entirely artificial, with no known natural process capable of creating them in atmospheres. Detecting signs of these gases on far-off worlds with telescopes might serve as potent evidence that intelligent alien civilizations were the cause, either intentionally as part of terraforming or accidentally via industrial pollution.

"An industrialized civilization will be one that will use its planetary resources for fabrication, the soon-to-be-detectable-from-Earth atmospheric byproducts of which could be a tell-tale sign of their activity," said astrobiologist Sanjoy Som of the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science.

Read the full article at
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