Artist’s concept of sunlight glowing through Earth's atmosphere Pic Credit:Gabriel Perez Diaz, SMM,IAC
Directly observing planets outside our solar system - called exoplanets - is almost impossible because they are washed out by the glare of the parent star. For this reason astronomers have largely relied on indirect methods that observe the effects of the planets on their parent stars instead of the planets themselves. Such indirect detection methods have helped take the number of exoplanets discovered so far to more than 350, but determining whether signs of life exist on a planet that can’t actually be seen presents a problem. Astronomers from the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) have found a solution.