Scientists announced Wednesday that they have discovered life in our solar system—on Earth.
It's not the most shocking of discoveries, but the method scientists used—by turning the Moon into a "mirror" to view Earth—could potentially be used to search for other Earth-like planets and whether or not life exists on planets beyond our solar system.
The Sun shines on the Earth and this light is reflected back to the surface of the Moon. The lunar surface acts as a giant mirror and reflects the Earth's light back to us," Michael Sterzik, lead author of the paper, said in a statement.
Using the "Very Large Telescope," our planet's most powerful telescope, Sterzik and his team were able to observe earth's polarized light spectra to determine the planet has "surface vegetation ... oxygen, ozone, and water." They also determined earth's atmosphere contains clouds and is partly covered with oceans.
That's all very obvious to our planet's population, but scientists hope a similar method involving distant planets' moons can be used to search for life on planets millions of miles away. Current telescopes aren't strong enough to do that, the researchers say, but the "European Extremely Large Telescope," planned to become operational in 2022, might be.
"Finding life outside the Solar System depends on two things: Whether this life exists in the first place, and having the technical capability to detect it," co-author Enric Palle said in a statement. "This work is an important step towards reaching that capability."