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Broccoli, along with many other plants and microorganisms, emit gases to help them expel toxins. Scientists believe these gases could provide compelling evidence of life on other planets.

These types of gases are made when organisms add a carbon and three hydrogen atoms to an undesirable chemical element. This process, called methylation, can turn potential toxins into gases that float safely away into the atmosphere. If these gases were to be detected in the atmosphere of another planet using telescopes, they would be suggestive of life somewhere on that planet.

"Methylation is so widespread on Earth, we expect life anywhere else to perform it," said Michaela Leung, UCR planetary scientist. "Most cells have mechanisms for expelling harmful substances."

One methylated gas, methyl bromide, has several advantages over other gases traditionally targeted in the search for life outside our solar system. Leung led a study, now published in the Astrophysical Journal, that explored and quantified these advantages.

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