NASA Reports the Most Likely Places in the Solar System that could Inhabit Alien Life Forms
For years we had our money on Mars to show some signs of alien life. Space enthusiasts have been keeping up with updates from robots and satellites that recover information regarding this. Here’s a list of all the planets that are most likely to inhabit life!
Life on Venus
Scientists best-believed life could be found on Mars because the environment is the closest to Earth and perhaps one day would have to sustain human life. However, no one was expecting that signs of life could emerge from Venus.
The British scientists discovered the presence of toxic gas, phosphine. Phosphine is known to be produced by microbes. The hint of the presence of these microbes is greatly appalling especially considering that Venus is submerged in an acidic atmosphere. However, this discovery leading to the possibility of potential Alien life on the planet is making the headlines.
After the discovery of this pungent gas on Venus, the astronomer Jane Greaves of Cardiff University said, “All the geological and photochemical routes we can think of are far too underproductive to make the phosphine we have seen,”. This has led the scientists to believe that there could be more than just microbes inhabiting the planet, perhaps bugs and creepy crawlies for starters. Scientists are spun with this new discovery. It has expanded its research prospects in the search of alien life on other planets.
The search for life on another planet has always been a hot topic amongst astronomers and scientists. Discoveries like these only elevate the importance of this search. In the late 19th to the start of the 20th century is when astronomers were highly confident about the success in their search. Mars and Venus were the centers of their focus concurrent to the atmospheric discoveries they made. Venus was shrouded with a thick layer of clouds that indicated the presence of dense forestation on the planet, inhabiting large species of not just planation but wildlife as well.
Change of Perspective About Existence of Alien Life
With the progress in the field of research and an upgraded definition of the necessities that sustain life scientists have found a sense of assurity. Scientists have discovered that perhaps life was not as frangible as they once believed it to be and maybe they had undermined what different organisms are capable of. An extremophile is a group of microorganisms that can survive and grow in the harshest of climates e.g volcanic and hydrothermal vents. The temperatures and conditions of these vents are dangerously high. If this does not mesmerize one enough, these organisms were also found smothered on panels of equipment that were sent into the vacuum of space for years. Finding life in places as such has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for the scientists. There have been numerous ups and downs during this journey to locate other life forms, but scientists are adamant about not giving up until they succeed in their expedition.
Despite the indication of new life on another planet, astronauts believe that even if they do locate a new life source it will nowhere near resemble the concept of aliens we believe in. It will most likely comprise of simple organisms such as microorganisms that do not require much to survive in the first place. However, the presence of even these organisms could in turn mean that there can be other life sources in the billions of galaxies present in the entire universe.
The Four Prominent Locations Regarding Alien Life
The four most prominent planets among scientists regarding the possibility of Alien life are Mars, Europa, Enceladus, and Titan. The atmosphere and surface on these planets are closest in resemblance to that of Earth.
Life on Mars
We are all familiar with the obsession of astronomers with our neighbor Mars when there is the search for alien life is involved. That is mainly because Mars is the closest planet to Earth and has uncanny similarities to it. The day comprises of 24.5 hours. Scientists found remains of canals built for irrigation and water distribution. The planet also exhibited changes in seasons that could only mean the likely support for vegetation to grow. There is also the presence of ice caps and scientists have located an ocean beneath the southern polar. Mars’ atmosphere is also discovered to have methane present in it. Methane is a gas produced by biological processes and that is an interesting contributor to raise the interest in the planet for life forms, however, scientists have not succeeded in locating the source of this gas.
Astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell, of the University of Westminster says, “Then, in the early 1960s, we sent our first space probes to the planets and discovered that Mars was a frozen, dead desert and that Venus was a hellhole,” he added “The prospects of finding alien life in the solar system took a nosedive.” Hence the entire search for alien life took a drastic turn of events and an utter disappointment for the astronomers. The thin atmosphere of Mars that meant excessive transmission of ultraviolet radiation on the planet was a major discouragement. Meanwhile, Venus was discovered to have a dense blanket of carbon dioxide followed by a thick layer of sulfuric acid. The presence of these layers heats up the planet to an extent that it was clear that life could not be supported. Astronomers believe that the heat on the planet is enough to melt any lead present on the surface.
Future Expeditions to Investigate Alien Life
NASA plans on sending a number of spacecrafts to Mars in order to study more about the planet as well as to retrieve rock samples. Scientists are to study these samples in the hopes of an indication of fossil revenue. The US robot rover Perseverance will also be a part of the spacecraft that are to be sent to Mars next year. They are scheduled to return back to Earth in a decade will all necessary samples. Open University astrobiologist Susanne Schwenzer said, “With Perseverance on its way to Mars, the prospect of collecting samples for a return to Earth is becoming really exciting, not only because we will have access to all the analytical capabilities we ever want, but also because of the long term benefits. The Apollo samples from the Moon continue to be a rich resource for research and allow us to discover new things decades after they first arrived in our laboratories. And that will be equally true of the Martian rocks we bring back to Earth,”
Life on Europa
Europa is one of Jupiter’s many moons. It is one of the three moons that are known to be discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610. It is surprisingly similar to Earth as well, being slightly smaller than the moon of the Earth. It completes a rotation around Jupiter in about 3.5 days, which is the closest rotation of a moon around its planet as compared to Earth. It covers a distance of about 670,000km in doing so. Europa is also known to exhibit tiding tidal reflexing, a phenomenon that is described as the contraction and relaxation due to the gravitational fields of Jupiter and all of its other moons. Due to this tidal flexing, Europa behaves much like Earth interiorly. Tidal flexing causes the interior rocks to melt into molten. It also keeps the water underneath the frozen surface of Europa. Scientists call this water body as a global ocean and are hopeful to find hydrothermal vents underneath all that water.
Alien Life Discoveries
Technology has evolved enough to let US interplanetary probes discover planets as far as wide. In doing so, they retrieved interesting facts regarding Jupiter. The planet was found to own moons that have deep underground oceans. Europa is covered with dense ice and is one of the most plane locations scientists have discovered. They found no hills, valleys or canals that could indicate the presence of life. However, what scientists did discover is that below these ice caps, there are oceans of saltwater. Since scientists link the presence of water to the occurrence of life forms, they are hopeful to find some sort of evidence that would support their search of decades.
“When you’re looking for alien life, you look for water. And Europa has got oceans of it, which makes it a very promising place to visit,” says Dartnell. US plans on sending their Europa clipper to Europa in 2024 which will be able to start the search on the moon by 2030. Scientists also plan on having a landing expedition on Europa for a thorough sweep of the moon, through the Europa’s underground ocean. However, the prospect seems unlikely for now due to the presence of Jupiter’s intense radiation field posing particular problems. Astronomer Leigh Fletcher, of Leicester University, says, “Organic chemicals and other compounds washed up on Europa’s surface are constantly being bombarded by radiation and that is going to damage any primitive living material that is present. It won’t survive long and that is going to be tough for any spacecraft which is trying to find out what’s occurring on Europa.”
Life on Enceladus
Another prospect for a possible life form is Enceladus, a moon of Saturn. The US Cassini space probe discovered geysers of water that are filled with organic materials and salt. The geysers go up from an underground ocean to space. Scientists believe that if there are any life forms present on Enceladus, this should be their core and they could be easily located. astrobiologist Professor Charles Cockell, of Edinburgh University, says, ‘It’s simply the most promising place in the solar system to find life” He added, “There may be water and organics on Mars but these are probably deep underground. But on Enceladus,Nas they are gushing out into space. All we have to do is sweep them up.”
— NASA Solar System (@NASASolarSystem) September 10, 2017
Despite the soaring indications that are compelling the scientists to send probes to Encelada, there are no plans in the near future. “It will take decades from the mission’s inception to actually get samples back to Earth,” added Cockell. “However, it will be worth the wait even if we find no evidence for biological activity in Enceladus. Liquid water and organic material are the two prime ingredients of life and they exist in abundance there. However, if we find that life has not evolved there, despite the presence of water and organic materials that suggests it must be a very difficult thing to set in motion.”
Life on Titan
Saturn possesses yet another moon, Titan, that is yet another source of interest for scientists with respect to finding life. The atmosphere of this moon is quite fundamental due to the presence of a thick cloud of organic materials and possess a methane weather system. The atmosphere also comprises of nitrogen. The presence of this gas is significant as we know that nitrogen is a contributing factor in the construction of proteins and proteins are the major building blocks of organisms.
The moon is also known to exhibit seasonal changes. Scientists have also located huge bodies of liquid methane and ethane. The possible presence of cryovolcanoes (volcanoes that erupt water instead of lava) is also enticing because that determines the existence of subsurface levels on the moon. The overall surface temperature of the moon is -180°C which is incredibly low to support life, however, scientists have now opened up to the possibility that the life forms they might uncover might be built to survive such conditions.
Titan was discovered to possess a layer of organic chemicals, yes the main chemicals required to sustain life, moreover, a lake of hydrocarbons such as ethane and methane was also discovered. “It was a double whammy,” said Dartnell. “Planetary science expanded and found new possible homes of life while the biological sciences showed organisms could survive in much harsher environments than we had previously supposed. That has given astrobiologists like myself renewed hope we have a chance of finding life on other worlds in our solar system.” Dartnell says, “There are lakes of the stuff on Titan and although it is extremely cold out there, there is a chance that hydrocarbon chemistry could result in the evolution of lifeforms,” he adds, “It is a fascinating prospect.”