Broccoli could be used by scientists to find evidence of life on other planets because of a gas it gives off, scientists believe.
The green vegetable is a member of the ‘brassica’ family, which expels potential toxins from its body as gas. The process, known as methylation, means that many gases eventually reach the atmosphere – and if it were happening on an alien planet, scientists would be able to detect it.
“Methylation is so widespread on Earth, we expect life anywhere else to perform it,” said Michaela Leung, University of California, Riverside planetary scientist. “Most cells have mechanisms for expelling harmful substances.”
One methylated gas, methyl bromide, has numerous advantages over other gases traditionally targeted in the search for life outside our solar system; because the gas remains in the atmosphere for a shorter time than others, detecting it implies that something recently made it. “If you find it, the odds are good it was made not so long ago – and that whatever made it is still producing it,” Ms Leung said.
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