Pluto has now become the latest world circling the Sun that just might be able to sustain alien life, scientists are saying. According to Space, the possibility became apparent when researchers, while poring over data from last year’s New Horizons spacecraft fly-by, found evidence that what was once thought of as nothing more than a frozen rock distantly orbiting the Sun could actually harbor living organisms. In fact, the data indicates that the ingredients that allow life to emerge and/or flourish have been found on Pluto.
Michael Summers, a planetary scientist on the New Horizons team who specializes in the structure and evolution of planetary atmospheres, said the possibility of life on Pluto was obvious.
“The connection with astrobiology is immediate — it’s right there in front of your face. You see organic materials, water and energy.”
As with Pluto, astronomers were excited to discover seven Earth-sized exoplanets around the red dwarf star Trappist-1 (with three — and possibly four — of those planets moving within the star’s habitability zone) in February, but astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was quick to point out that the young age of the star, when red dwarf stars are far more volatile, may have already stripped all seven of the Trappist-1 planets of their atmospheres and/or irradiated the worlds to the point where life might no longer be possible — except perhaps living organisms with which we are unfamiliar. So, with the number of candidates having the potential to sustain life increasing within our Solar System, the search for alien life might not even have to go outside our own star’s planetary train before it is confirmed that humans are not alone in the universe.
Here are the worlds under our own star’s gravitational influence that scientists believe have the potential to sustain alien life:
Venus: Once thought to hotter, swampier version of Earth, scientists have learned that the second planet from the Sun is nothing like Earth, is home to the hottest temperatures in the Solar System, and is bombarded with storms of sulfuric acid rain. Still, as was reported by the Inquisitr, scientists last month posited that due to the presence of a certain molecule, life might exist in the form of aerial micro-organisms in the skies of Venus and could be the cause of the planet’s mysterious black bands of clouds.
Mars: Also once thought to be somewhat like Earth, Mars is now seen as a cold and barren expanse of iron oxide that might have enjoyed oceans and rivers hundreds of millions of years ago. But that iron oxide coating just might be a protective layer hiding microbial life, according to a recent study (via the Inquisitr). Because of the thin atmosphere and the huge dosage of radiation that burns the planet, scientists believe, the aforementioned study notwithstanding, that if life exists on Mars, it will be subterranean and most like microbial.
Europa: Jupiter’s moon, Europa, is the sixth largest planetary satellite in the Solar System. A deep ocean filled with salty water is believed to exist below its icy crust. According to Popular Mechanics, with volcanism firing off geysers that reach far outside Europa’s surface, it is believed that if the water is cyclically connected to the interior ocean floor, there is a chance that life has evolved from the chemical soup.
Ganymede: The Solar System’s largest moon revolves around Jupiter and is believed to have a miles-deep ocean underneath its icy shell as well. As Futurism reported, salt has also been detected and is believed to be prevalent in Ganymede’s oceans. And where there are signs of water…
Enceladus: One of Saturn’s many moons, it has been discovered to have a subsurface ocean as well. Its ice geysers are believed to contribute to Saturn’s rings.
Titan: Saturn’s largest moon (and the second-largest in the Solar System) has rivers and lakes of liquid methane. In 2005, it was posited by a team led by Chris McKay of NASA that it was possible life might emerge on Titan that could survive methane rains and the moon’s dense nitrogen atmosphere.
At present, it is unknown if living organisms will ever be discovered any place other than Earth. But as long as the possibility exists, the search for extraterrestrial life, both in our own Solar System and out among the far-flung stars, will continue. NASA’s official stance is that there is no definitive proof that alien life exists.
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