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Even when a distant world has the trademarks of habitability — it’s Earth-sized, it’s in the zone around its star where liquid water is possible — finding signs of life is tricky. The telescope technology of today falls short of being able to distinguish clues of life.

But readying the tools to find life now will help astronomers when telescopes get better in the next few decades. Sometimes, this requires looking at a planet that we already know has life — that would be Earth, the only confirmed one so far — and pretending that we are looking at it as a visiting extraterrestrial.

When viewing Earth from space, how could you tell that this planet is well-suited for life? Are there telltale signatures in the atmosphere or from our oceans? These are some of the questions that controllers of a lunar spacecraft sought to answer when it took a bit of a side mission. Instead of observing the Moon, NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) briefly looked at Earth.

- See more at: http://www.astrobio.net/news-exclusive/earth-look-like-habitable-planet-afar/#sthash.moEN89lO.dpuf

Even when a distant world has the trademarks of habitability — it’s Earth-sized, it’s in the zone around its star where liquid water is possible — finding signs of life is tricky. The telescope technology of today falls short of being able to distinguish clues of life.

But readying the tools to find life now will help astronomers when telescopes get better in the next few decades. Sometimes, this requires looking at a planet that we already know has life — that would be Earth, the only confirmed one so far — and pretending that we are looking at it as a visiting extraterrestrial.

When viewing Earth from space, how could you tell that this planet is well-suited for life? Are there telltale signatures in the atmosphere or from our oceans? These are some of the questions that controllers of a lunar spacecraft sought to answer when it took a bit of a side mission. Instead of observing the Moon, NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) briefly looked at Earth.

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