Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Abiotic ozone and oxygen in atmospheres similar to prebiotic earth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


S.D. Domagal-Goldman, A. Segura, M.W. Claire, T.D. Robinson, V.S. Meadows

School/Research organisations


The search for life on planets outside our solar system will use spectroscopic identification of atmospheric biosignatures. The most robust remotely detectable potential biosignature is considered to be the detection of oxygen (O2) or ozone (O3) simultaneous to methane (CH4) at levels indicating fluxes from the planetary surface in excess of those that could be produced abiotically. Here we use an altitude-dependent photochemical model with the enhanced lower boundary conditions necessary to carefully explore abiotic O2 and O3 production on lifeless planets with a wide variety of volcanic gas fluxes and stellar energy distributions. On some of these worlds, we predict limited O2 and O3 buildup, caused by fast chemical production of these gases. This results in detectable abiotic O3 and CH4 features in the UV-visible, but no detectable abiotic O2 features. Thus, simultaneous detection of O3 and CH4 by a UV-visible mission is not a strong biosignature without proper contextual information. Discrimination between biological and abiotic sources of O2 and O3 is possible through analysis of the stellar and atmospheric context—particularly redox state and O atom inventory—of the planet in question. Specifically, understanding the spectral characteristics of the star and obtaining a broad wavelength range for planetary spectra should allow more robust identification of false positives for life. This highlights the importance of wide spectral coverage for future exoplanet characterization missions. Specifically, discrimination between true and false positives may require spectral observations that extend into infrared wavelengths and provide contextual information on the planet's atmospheric chemistry.



Original languageEnglish
Article number90
Number of pages15
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Early online date30 Aug 2014
StatePublished - 10 Sep 2014

    Research areas

  • Earth, Planets and satellites: atmospheres, Planets and satellites: terrestrial planets, Planet-star interactions, Ultraviolet: planetary systems, Infrared: planetary systems

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Triple oxygen isotope analysis of nitrate using isotope exchange - cavity ringdown laser spectroscopy

    Gázquez, F. & Claire, M. W. 30 Nov 2018 In : Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry. 32, 22, p. 1949-1961

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Long-term planetary habitability and the carbonate-silicate cycle

    Rushby, A. J., Johnson, M., Mills, B. J. W., Watson, A. J. & Claire, M. W. 1 May 2018 In : Astrobiology. 18, 5, p. 469-480 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Two-billion-year-old evaporites capture Earth's great oxidation

    Blättler, C., Claire, M., Prave, A. R., Zerkle, A. L. & Warke, M. R. 22 Mar 2018 In : Science. eaar2687

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Evaluation of the Tindouf Basin region in Southern Morocco as an analog site for soil geochemistry on Noachian Mars

    Oberlin, E. A., Claire, M. W. & Kounaves, S. 9 Feb 2018 In : Astrobiology. 18, 8

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. High-frequency fluctuations in redox conditions during the latest Permian mass extinction

    Mettam, C., Zerkle, A. L., Claire, M. W., Izon, G., Junium, C. J. & Twitchett, R. J. 1 Nov 2017 In : Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 485, p. 210-223

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Astrophysical Journal (Journal)

    Carolin Villforth (Reviewer)
    2011 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

  2. Astrophysical Journal (Journal)

    Helling, C. (Reviewer)
    1 Jan 200631 Dec 2017

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

  3. Astrophysical Journal (Journal)

    Mackay, D. H. (Editor)
    1997 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

  4. Astrophysical Journal (Journal)

    Hood, A. W. (Editor)
    1980 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

Related by journal

  1. Heating effects from driven transverse and Alfvén waves in coronal loops

    Guo, M., Van Doorsselaere, T., Karampelas, K., Li, B., Antolin, P. & De Moortel, I. 10 Jan 2019 In : Astrophysical Journal. 870, 2, 10 p., 55

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. A comparison of simulated JWST observations derived from equilibrium and non-equilibrium chemistry models of giant exoplanets

    Blumenthal, S. D., Mandell, A. M., Hébrard, E., Batalha, N. E., Cubillos, P. E., Rugheimer, S. & Wakeford, H. R. 30 Jan 2018 In : Astrophysical Journal. 853, 2, 138

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. A universal spin-mass relation for brown dwarfs and planets

    Scholz, A., Moore, K., Jayawardhana, R., Aigrain, S., Peterson, D. & Stelzer, B. Jun 2018 In : Astrophysical Journal. 859, 2, 10 p., 153

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Accretion disk reverberation with Hubble Space Telescope observations of NGC 4593: evidence for diffuse continuum lags

    Cackett, E. M., Chiang, C-Y., McHardy, I., Edelson, R., Goad, M. R., Horne, K. & Korista, K. T. 12 Apr 2018 In : Astrophysical Journal. 857, 1, 12 p., 53

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Continuum reverberation mapping of the accretion disks in two Seyfert 1 galaxies

    Fausnaugh, M. M. , Starkey, D. A. , Horne, K. , Kochanek, C. S. , Peterson, B. M. , Bentz, M. C. , Denney, K. D. , Grier, C. J. , Grupe, D. , Pogge, R. W. , De Rosa, G. , Adams, S. M. , Barth, A. J. , Beatty, T. G. , Bhattacharjee, A. , Borman, G. A. , Boroson, T. A. , Bottorff, M. C. , Brown, J. E. , Brown, J. S. & 52 others Brotherton, M. S., Coker, C. T., Crawford, S. M., Croxall, K. V., Eftekharzadeh, S., Eracleous, M., Joner, M. D., Henderson, C. B., Holoien, T. W. -S., Hutchison, T., Kaspi, S., Kim, S., King, A. L., Li, M., Lochhaas, C., Ma, Z., MacInnis, F., Manne-Nicholas, E. R., Mason, M., Montuori, C., Mosquera, A., Mudd, D., Musso, R., Nazarov, S. V., Nguyen, M. L., Okhmat, D. N., Onken, C., Ou-Yang, B., Pancoast, A., Pei, L., Penny, M. T., Poleski, R., Rafter, S., Romero-Colmenero, E., Runnoe, J., Sand, D. J., Schimoia, J. S., Sergeev, S. G., Shappee, B. J., Simonian, G. V., Somers, G., Spencer, M., Stevens, D. J., Tayar, J., Treu, T., Valenti, S., Van Saders, J., Villanueva Jr, S., Villforth, C., Weiss, Y., Winkler, H. & Zhu, W. 20 Feb 2018 In : Astrophysical Journal. 854, 2, 20 p., 107

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 147758008