Life Elsewhere? Perhaps in Our Solar System?

Source: Time Magazine

The possibility of life existing elsewhere has fascinated human beings since… well, since humans have been on this planet. With the advancement of space study and exploration, many astronomers have turned their attention to finding planets (or other astronomical bodies) with life. For example, there is the extrasolar planet Gliese 581g. Located 20 light-years away from Earth, 581g orbits within the habitable region around its star and has enough mass (3 times that of Earth) to retain an atmosphere capable of supporting life. There’s also the ongoing SETI (Search for extraterrestrial intelligence) project. The Voyager probes carried golden records which contained scenes, greetings, music, and sounds from Earth for would-be alien listeners. To date, these searches, and others, have not proven fruitful. Yet, personally, I think these are worthwhile endeavors and that, sooner or later, they will pay off. Think about it. Our universe is so vast that it is a virtual certainty that life exists, somewhere out there. The odds that our small corner in the cosmos turned out to be the only place to hit the biological jackpot are ridiculously small.

That said, maybe we don’t have to look too far to find life. In fact, it may be right under our noses, here in this same cosmic corner. Life doesn’t exist on the 7 other planets, but some of the moons surrounding our Jovian neighbors have been garnering interest. Wikipedia has a great article detailing the studies and theories of life on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Jupiter’s moon Europa is thought to have an ocean under its icy surface, which could harbor life. Then, there’s Enceladus, whose picture you see above. Like Europa, it is thought to have an ocean. It is also a moon with cryovolcanic activity, with eruptions spewing water, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, potassium salts, and other organic materials (Kluger, 2012). With these discoveries, growing numbers within the scientific community consider it a sweet spot for alien life (Lovett, 2011). Much exploration needs to be done, but the excitement over what is known is certainly warranted. And, yes, in the end we may not find anything at all. But, that just means we’ll have to look harder elsewhere.

Or maybe, just maybe, they’ll find us first.

To read more about Enceladus, see:

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2109837,00.html

http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110531/full/news.2011.337.html

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3 responses to “Life Elsewhere? Perhaps in Our Solar System?

  • arcencieldduchaos

    I agree that the search for life elsewhere in the universe is an important endeavor. The size and scope of the universe are just so amazingly large, it seems impossible that life doesn’t exist somewhere else. The idea of a whole world where life evolved in a different way and time than ours is kind of mind-blowing. I wonder if anyone has studied the evolution of life on Earth enough to have an idea if life might evolve similarly somewhere else…?

  • ikestronomy

    One mind blowing thing about this concept is that life could certainly exist elsewhere in the universe, but we could never find it even with the best technology. Our universe, thought to be infinite, is so vast that it is more than possible for two intelligent species like human beings to coexist without any knowledge of each other. What a strange thought. Perhaps even in an infinite amount of time we will never discover someone else out there, even if they do exist.

  • alok99

    Just to add on a bit about Enceladus, which I also talked about, here’s an image showing how active the moon is.

    You can see the huge cracks in the surface where the moon’s frozen plates get pulled laterally by both the gravity of Saturn, and of some of the other moons. One big possibility is that under those cracks lies a massive ocean of water. If that is the case, since the planet is so active, there’s a chance there is life underneath the snowy protective covering.

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