|James Web Telescope. Credit: Google Images|
The James Web Telescope is due to launch in 2018 and will be able to analyze the atmosphere of the thousands of exoplanets we’ve discovered.
As Oxygen is so volatile and reactive, we know that if we detect it, that it must be coming from a source that is regularly producing it. We can also deduce most life is likely to have arisen around the carbon atom and its millions of complex molecules (there is a reason chemistry is split into carbon chemistry (organic) and everything else (inorganic).
When we get to a point in the 2020’s when we’ve scanned thousands of habitable zone planets, the presence or absence of oxygen is going to tell us a lot about how much or how little life there is in the Universe.