The glint given off by alien oceans located in other parts of the galaxy could help scientists and astronomers locate exoplanets that offer habitable potential, according to Discovery.
In the past, astronomers have only approximated surface conditions of exoplanets based on their size and star proximity, but NASA researchers are experimenting with the idea of utilizing ocean glint to gather more information, according to Extreme Tech.
"Seeing excessive brightness at the crescent phases could be a telltale signal of ocean planets," said Tyler Robinson, of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California."
When the Earth travels around the sun and moves through its phases, its oceans reflect a considerable amount of light. One of these phases is called the crescent phase, and this is when the Earth's oceans reflect enough light to be spotted from very far away. This same process should apply to exoplanets and help in the discovery of new ones.
In 2009, one of NASA's spacecrafts caught a visual of the Earth from the dark side of the moon and found that the light signatures gave a fairly accurate idea of the physical characteristics of the Earth's surface in terms of land and water coverage. If fact, astronauts were able to spot both the Pacific and Atlantic ocean.
The only challenge faced by scientists is that exoplanet glint may not always be the sign of an ocean - it could also be the result of clouds or ice clouds, according to Yahoo News.
"The detection of such a feature would be intriguing, and would certainly indicate that a more detailed observational follow-up of the planet was warranted," said Robinson.