Can you live outside of planet Earth?
A famous question that is constantly asked between curious people and rotating between scientists…
Astrobiology is the study that concerns the origin, nature and future of living across the universe. Its main goal is to find evidence of past or present life on planet Earth. There are several mysteries about planets and moons, solar systems, galaxies and the makeup of space along the way. While there is no exact evidence found, the possibility that life exists outside of Earth is growing more and more.
First of all, it is worth considering that it is extremely hard to find microbial life, and scientists are constantly searching and studying the depths of space. While we can’t state for sure what kind of life might be located through these searches, it is most likely microbial, as single-celled life can survive in a variety of environments. Telescopic searches for extraterrestrial intelligence are also a fragment of astrobiology’s extensive research palette. To get a better grasp of astrobiology, it is essential to observe living situations on other planets, what we have ascertained and how near we are to progress the technology that is crucial to respond to our questions.
Research has established that, for organisms to live on other planets, the living environment of those planets has to be appropriate for the organisms’ needs. Those who study Mars are finding out that the currently droughty and glacial planet was once much hotter and moister- a far more open place for microbial and maybe even compound living.
Oceans can be kept warm despite being very far from the Sun because of gravitational interactions between the moons and their host planet. On top of that, other discoveries, primarily due to the Galileo space probe, suggest that some of Jupiter’s moons, as well as Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, might have long-lived liquid oceans under their icy outer skins. Scientists have reported spotting an Earth-sized planet orbiting at the right distance from its star to have liquid water, another sign of potential habitability, in a solar system 490 light-years away. The wide-scale presence of the element oxygen or molecule ozone in the atmosphere of an exoplanet, which is a planet outside the solar system, would strongly suggest that life is present. That’s because the two bond very quickly with other elements and molecules. They would be widely present in their unattached state only if something was producing them in large and consistent amounts. What we know of chemistry says that something would have to be alive. The development of intelligent life such as humans is unlikely to be an event that is unique to Earth. Another point to note, however, is that nervous systems and the brain’s large mass require so much oxygen that would really be a burden to the animal.
On the other hand, scientists have learned that microbial life is far more tenacious than ever imagined and able to survive underground, in glaciers, alongside hydrothermal vents (a fissure on the seafloor from which heated water discharges) and even floating in the atmosphere. The living conditions are suitable; we just have not been able to prove there is life living in them. While we may not know everything about astrobiology, the amount scientists have discovered is remarkable. More than 500 complex carbohydrates have been positively identified in the past 15 years. Thousands of exoplanets have been officially identified via NASA missions such as Kepler as well as ground-based observations. Billions more await discovery. And that’s just in our Milky Way galaxy.
According to experts, the rover Curiosity, a car-sized Mars rover designed to explore the Gale crater on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission, has firmly decided that ancient Mars was substantially warmer and wetter, and turned into a full habitable region for microbial lifestyles. All the ingredients wished for existence: the proper chemicals, a constant source of energy and water that likely became present and strong on the surface for millions of years. Another high-profile example is the ExoMars task sponsored with the aid of the European Space Agency, with assistance from the Russian Space Agency and NASA. The most important goal of this mission was to check for the organic gasoline methane (chemical compound) within the Atmosphere of Mars. While European scientists have made very international methane detections in the past, it was NASA’s detection of massive plumes of released methane that focused on this ExoMars mission. NASA Mars landers and satellites orbiting the planet have found remnants of river deltas and gullies (a ravine formed by the action of water) as well as ice frozen just below the surface.
In addition, two American astronomers have found a planet or two outside our solar system where conditions exist (liquid water the temperature of hot tea, for example) that may be hospitable to life. A team under the leadership of NASA’s Michael Mumma at the Goddard Space Flight Center has determined that the gas methane spurts out of the Martian surface at regular times and in particular places. So much has been discovered it’s a wonder that not enough has been found to have a clear ruling on whether or not life beyond earth exists.
With the information we have on astrobiology, a common question that occurs is, “How close are we to finding the answers we need?” With the end of NASA’s spaceshuttle programme coming soon, many Americans have complained that the nation’s efforts in space are decreasing. Nothing could be further from the truth; they’re just changing. Scientists are constantly researching and trying to answer questions like the following: what steps were taken that led non-living materials like rocks, sediments, organic compounds, and water to come together and build living organisms? How did new life come about on Earth? How do water and organic compounds arrive on planets and moons? Is it possible to tell from chemicals and minerals on the surface of planets whether or not microbes might live there? Is it possible that life exists elsewhere based on elements other than carbon and a system different from DNA? Overall, it is very hard to know how close we are to the answers we need.
In order to understand alien existence, it is necessary to examine living conditions on other planets, what we have discovered and how close we are to developing the technology required to answer our questions. We do not yet have conclusive evidence one way or another, but an answer can be found at any time. While it is very likely at least microbial organisms are living on other planets, scientists still have neither adequate observational points nor sufficient understanding to determine whether distant, potentially habitable exoplanets do, in fact, support life.
Taking everything into consideration, curiosity is killing people. Nevertheless, patience is key, and one day, scientists are very confident that we will have indisputable evidence that organisms outside of Earth are out there.
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