The James Webb Space Telescope may have discovered evidence of signs of life on a distant planet, K2-18b, according to a NASA statement.
The researchers say the telescope detected a molecule called dimethyl sulfide, which can only be produced by living organisms.
On Earth, most of these molecules are emitted by phytoplankton in marine environments.
The telescope also detected methane and CO2 in the planet’s atmosphere, which could indicate the presence of an ocean.
However, scientists warn that more evidence is still needed.
The exoplanet K2-18b is almost nine times the size of Earth and has the potential to support life, due to its temperature, presence of carbon and liquid water and is located more than 120 light years from Earth.
“These results are the product of just two observations of K2-18b. There are many more on the way,” explained team member Savvas Constantinou from the University of Cambridge.
Now the team intends to carry out follow-up research with the telescope’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) spectrograph, which they hope to further validate their findings.
“Our ultimate goal is to identify life on a habitable exoplanet, which would transform our understanding of our place in the universe,” concluded Professor Nikku Madhusudhan, author of the study.