10 Surprising Places In Space With The Right Raw Ingredients For Life
“Shortly after Earth first formed first formed, life quickly took hold, thriving ever since. Perhaps terrestrial life didn’t originate here, but arrived from elsewhere through natural processes. Surprisingly, the raw ingredients necessary for life exist almost everywhere astronomers look. Here are 10 locations where they’re ubiquitous.”
It’s not surprising to find that the ingredients for life are found in locations all over planet Earth. But what might be surprising is the sheer number and variety of places in the Universe, far beyond our planet, where the necessary raw ingredients are also found. I don’t just mean atoms, but complex organic molecules like ethyl formate, cyanopolyynes, fullerenes, amino acids, and even proteins. You can find them in meteorites, on Pluto, Mars, around newly forming stars, in reflection nebulae, in dark gas clouds in the galaxy, and even in the galactic center, among many other locations.
Here are 10 surprising places in space that all have the right raw ingredients for life. Perhaps, if the ingredients are all over, life in the Milky Way is, too.
Will Alien Life First Be Discovered On Europa, Exoplanets, Or From Extraterrestrials?
“If it exists on a world in our Solar System, like Mars or Europa, we’ll finally be sending space probes with the capability of finding those biosignatures. If life exists and has thrived for a long time on a nearby exoplanets, direct imaging or transit spectroscopy could reveal hints or even surefire evidence of that planetary transformation. And if intelligent aliens are trying to contact us, we’re better positioned to pick up those beacons than ever before.
For as long as humans have existed, we’ve wondered whether life on Earth is all there is and if we’re alone in the Universe, or if other life forms exist on worlds beyond our own planet. As the 2020s dawns, we have better prospects than ever for discovering life on all three possible fronts. With billions of potentially inhabited worlds in our galaxy alone, even if life is relatively rare, we’re still in great position to detect what scant life does exist. Arguably, the biggest question isn’t whether we’re alone or not, but rather how and where we’ll find our first evidence for life beyond Earth.”
It’s the start of the 2020s, and humanity still hasn’t determined whether we’re alone in the Universe or not. We’ve never found a single surefire signature of the existence of extraterrestrial life: not in our solar system, not on planets around other stars, not from intelligent, spacefaring aliens. But if there are alien life forms out there, inhabiting other planets and leaving their biological imprints on them, we have three entirely unique and complementary approaches to uncovering them.
So how will we get there first? Come explore the possibilities and see where the technology will take us this decade!
Ask Ethan: Would An Alien Civilization Classify Earth As An ‘Interesting’ Planet?
“I was thinking about the projection of light through space. My curtain was open and I saw the stars and something from a book popped into my head. It had said that the stars we see are basically reruns. The light is from so long ago, we don’t even know if the star still exists or not.
[…] Whatever signals we send out, or changes in our planet that might be observable to prove intelligent life lives here, would take billions of years to reach anything alive and capable of responding! What do you think?”
The cosmic distances separating the stars and galaxies are absolutely tremendous, and even though the speed of light is the fastest speed there is, it still takes an awfully long time to traverse the astronomical abyss of space. Humanity has only been a technologically advanced civilization for a few hundred years, and we’ve only entered the space age a few decades ago. Yet that doesn’t mean we’re off-limits to advanced aliens who might be looking for us at all. Even if they couldn’t discover our technosignatures, they could still tell, even from billions of light-years away, that Earth was an interesting, inhabited planet, using nothing more than more advanced versions of the technologies we’re using today and in the near-future to look for life on exoplanets in our cosmic backyard.
An alien civilization with more advanced technology could detect cosmically interesting things about Earth from extremely far away. Here’s where your hopes and fears meet with reality: on this week’s Ask Ethan!
Happy 230th Birthday, Enceladus, Our Solar System’s Greatest Hope For Life Beyond Earth
“It is still a complete unknown whether Earth is the only world in the Solar System to house any form of life: past or present. Venus and Mars may have been Earth-like for a billion years or more, and life could have arisen there early on. Frozen worlds with subsurface oceans, like Enceladus, Europa, Triton or Pluto, are completely different from Earth’s present environment, but have the same raw ingredients that could potentially lead to life as well.
Are water, energy, and the right molecules all we need for life to arise? Finding even the most basic organisms (or even the precursor components of organisms) anyplace else in the Universe would lead to a scientific revolution. A single discovered cell in the geysers of Enceladus would be the most momentous discovery of the 21st century. With the recent demise of Cassini, on the 230th anniversary of Enceladus’ discovery, the possibility of finding the incredible compels us to go back. May we be bold enough to make it so.”
On this date in 1789, William Herschel, armed with the most powerful telescope known to humanity at the time (you can get a lot of grant money when you discover the planet Uranus and name it after the King), discovered a relatively small moon of Saturn just 500 kilometers across: Enceladus. For some 200 years, Enceladus was never seen as more than a single pixel across, until the Voyager probes flew by it. What they revealed was a remarkable, unique world in all the Solar System. Now that the Cassini mission is complete, we can look back at all we know about this world, and all the signs point to a remarkable story: there’s a subsurface ocean, possibly suitable as a home for undersea life.
Is Enceladus truly our Solar System’s best hope for life beyond Earth? That’s debatable, but there’s every reason to be hopeful. Come get the story here.
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