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Weekly Space Hangout

Jan 5, 2023

Historically, scientists using spectrographic analysis to study exoplanet atmospheres have considered oxygen and methane as two key biosignatures when identifying "life-friendly" planets. But could nitrous oxide (N2O) — aka "Laughing Gas" — also be a reliable biosignature? A recent paper published in the October, 2022, Astrophysical Journal explains why N2O can — and should — be included as a biosignature gas. Tonight we are pleased to welcome the paper's lead author, Dr. Eddie Schwieterman, astrobiologist at UC Riverside, to discuss why N2O is an indicator of life.

Dr. Eddie Schwieterman is an Assistant Professor of Astrobiology in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California, Riverside. He earned his undergraduate degrees in physics and astrophysics from the Florida Institute of Technology and his PhD in astronomy and astrobiology from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Dr. Schwieterman studies the climate, atmospheric chemistry, geochemical evolution, and spectral appearance of terrestrial (rocky) planets. His research specifically focuses on the habitability and potential biosignatures of exoplanets.

To learn more about Eddie's research visit his website ( and follow him on Twitter: @nogreenstars.

You can also read more about nitrous oxide as biosignature in the following SciNews article: Nitrous Oxide Could Help Detect Extraterrestrial Life on Exo-Earths.


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