Are We Alone: All about Extraterrestrial Life in Solar System

About 385,000 babies are born every day. We are already more than 8 billion people using the world’s resources. Our numbers are growing rapidly, but we cannot say the same for the world’s resources. We are using up many of the world’s resources very quickly. Even though it is not a major problem at the moment (or not felt by many countries), experts say that serious shortages are coming. Of course, a lot of research is being done to solve this. But, without a doubt, the most noteworthy of these is the search for extraterrestrial life. Although it may sound utopian, establishing a colony on an extraterrestrial planet or satellite is a topic that is being researched. Countless satellites are launched into space every year for this research. But is extraterrestrial life really possible? Let’s examine this.

Goldilocks Zone: Not too cold not too hot

First, let’s find out what the Goldilocks field is. Maybe you have heard the fairy tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”. In this fairy tale, Goldilocks tries to get her porridge at the right temperature – not too hot, not too cold. In fact, even this is a very accurate description of the “Goldilocks Zone”. For life to exist on a celestial body, it has to be within a certain temperature range. Water freezes on very cold planets and water boils on very hot planets. Every star has its own “Goldilocks Zone”. Take the Sun, for example. Our Sun is a G-type yellow dwarf, and finding the Goldilocks Zone, as you may have guessed, is not very difficult. This is because our Earth is located inside this region. The innermost part of this region is around the orbit of Venus, the hottest planet in our system. The outermost part is around the orbit of Mars. Of course, temperature is not enough and a planet must have water and an atmosphere to support life. For example, even though the Moon is in the Goldilocks Zone, it cannot support life because its atmosphere is too thin.

Mars: All efforts futile?

Mars is undoubtedly the most popular celestial body for scientists to study extraterrestrial life. For example, the United States has sent a well-equipped rover called Perseverance to Mars. This rover has an arm that can collect rocks from Mars. It also has a high-resolution camera that can take detailed pictures of Mars and a laser that can melt rocks. Perseverance is mainly investigating microbial life on Mars. This rover will study a region called Jezero crater, which used to be a lake and river delta. As of now, NASA has yet to discover any conclusive evidence of the existence of extraterrestrial life. However, reports suggest that traces of extraterrestrial life may have been found during the Viking landing mission on Mars in the mid-1970s. However, we can say that the most detailed research will be done in the next 50 years.

Two Giants: Is it possible?

Now let’s look at the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. In recent years, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn have become the focus of the search for extraterrestrial life. Recently, scientists have begun to believe that several of Jupiter’s and Saturn’s moons may also have conditions suitable for life. Europa and Enceladus are two promising candidates. Europa is one of Jupiter’s 79 known moons and is believed to harbor a huge ocean beneath its icy crust. Some scientists believe that water could provide the conditions for life to flourish there. Enceladus is one of Saturn’s moons and is thought to have an ocean under its icy crust. Like Europa’s ocean, Enceladus’ ocean is thought by some scientists to remain liquid thanks to Saturn’s gravitational energy. The American spacecraft Cassini sampled and analyzed the columns of water spewed by Enceladus and found that they contain methane. The American spacecraft Cassini sampled and analyzed the columns of water spewed out by Enceladus and found that they contained methane. Other icy moons, such as Jupiter’s moon Ganymede and Neptune’s moon Triton, may also have the potential to harbor life. As mentioned earlier, NASA’s Perseverance rover is currently searching for signs of extraterrestrial life on Mars, while the European Space Agency’s “Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer” spacecraft will embark on a 12-year journey that will begin in 2023 to study Europa, Callisto (another Jovian moon) and Ganymede.

Titan: The foremost hope

Let’s talk in more detail about a moon we mentioned in the previous paragraph, because it’s worth it. Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is one of the most interesting places in the Solar System for the search for extraterrestrial life. Titan is much colder than Earth, but it is one of the few celestial bodies in the Solar System known to have liquids on its surface in the form of rivers, lakes and seas. Its dense atmosphere is chemically active and rich in carbon compounds. It is believed to have liquid methane and ethane on its surface, as well as liquid water under its ice crust. Some scientists speculate that these substances would provide the conditions for “cells with structures different from those on Earth”. In fact, Titan would be the most promising place in the Solar System to look for extraterrestrial life if it were not a cold celestial body. Scientists analyzing data from the Cassini-Huygens mission have reported anomalies in the atmosphere near the surface that could be compatible with the presence of methane-producing organisms, but they could also be due to non-living chemical or meteorological processes. The consideration of Titan as a setting for the study of potentially exotic life is largely based on the diversity of organic chemistry taking place in its atmosphere.

Uh oh! Now some bad news

But as optimistic as we are, there are serious problems. Research shows that detecting extraterrestrial life is a challenging process. One of the main challenges is that we don’t know what we are looking for. Life on other planets may be very different from life on Earth, and even if we find it, we may not recognize it or even notice it. Another challenge is that the environments in which extraterrestrial life might exist can be extremely harsh and difficult to explore. For example, the surface of Mars has a very thin atmosphere that is vulnerable to radiation from space. In addition, the technology needed to detect extraterrestrial life is still very new. We currently use telescopes and probes to look for signs of life, but these methods have limitations. For example, telescopes can only detect the presence of certain chemicals in a planet’s atmosphere, which may or may not indicate the presence of life. Probes can collect samples from other planets and moons, but these samples are often contaminated by Earth microbes, which can make it difficult to tell whether any life detected actually belongs to that celestial body. Despite these challenges, scientists are optimistic about the possibility of finding alien life in the Solar System and beyond. New technologies and missions are constantly being developed to help us better understand the Universe and our place in it.

Read more about astronomy!


Kelvinsong, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Kelvinsong, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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