Category Archives: Astrobiology

Moon Plants: Another historic first by China’s Lunar Lander

Scientists from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) has confirmed that the seedlings taken to the far side of the moon with Chang’e 4 lunar lander have started sprouting. Or to put it another way: this is the first time something has been grown on an astronomical body outside of the Earth! Now we have “moon plants”!

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Proof of life: how would we recognise an alien if we saw one?

What would convince you that aliens existed? The question came up recently at a conference on astrobiology, held at Stanford University in California. Several ideas were tossed around – unusual gases in a planet’s atmosphere, strange heat gradients on its surface. But none felt persuasive. Finally, one scientist offered the solution: a photograph. There was some laughter and a murmur of approval from the audience of researchers: yes, a photo of an alien would be convincing evidence, the holy grail of proof that we’re not alone.

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To find aliens, we must think of life as we don’t know it

From blob-like jellyfish to rock-like lichens, our planet teems with such diversity of life that it is difficult to recognise some organisms as even being alive. That complexity hints at the challenge of searching for life as we don’t know it – the alien biology that might have taken hold on other planets, where conditions could be unlike anything we’ve seen before. ‘The Universe is a really big place. Chances are, if we can imagine it, it’s probably out there on a planet somewhere,’ said Morgan Cable, an astrochemist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. ‘The question is, will we be able to find it?’

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We May Have Already Detected Signs of Alien Microbes on Saturn’s Moon Enceladus

According to a new study, microbes like those found in Earth’s deep ocean could potentially thrive in the underground ocean of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus. Both molecular hydrogen (H2) and methane (CH4) already have been detected in the plume. Researchers have shown that Methanothermococcus okinawensis, a methanogenic archaeon first isolated from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent on the western Pacific Ocean, can produce methane under conditions known to exist on Enceladus.

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Watch: How to tell if a planet harbors life?

Are we alone in the universe? Or are there any other “living planets” other than Earth? Until 1992, we even don’t know if there are any other planets around the other stars or not. In 1992, two Swiss astrophysicists, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz the first “exoplanet” (a planet orbiting another star than the Sun). Then discoveries continued. Especially after the launch of Kepler space telescope on March 7, 2009, which is a space observatory launched by NASA to discover Earth-size planets orbiting other stars, we quickly learned that our Solar System is not a rare phenomenon at all. As of November 2017, scientists have confirmed more than 3,500 exoplanets in more than 2,700 star systems. Now, the question is: are any of these planets (or the planets waiting to be discovered in the future) harbor life? If so, how we can find out? How to tell if a planet harbors life?

Currently, we have only one example: the Earth itself. Studying Earth and trying to figure out how we’d conclude the Earth harbors life from a distance (from space) can show us how to find out if a planet harbors life or not. Since 1997, NASA satellites have continuously observed all plant life at the surface of the land and ocean.

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