NASA researcher is now predicting we’ll find life off-Earth in the next 20 years. Color me a little skeptical. Excerpt:
‘Before we go looking for life, we’re trying to figure out what kinds of planets could have a climate that’s conducive to life,’ said Tony del Genio of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
‘We’re using the same climate models that we use to project 21st century climate change on Earth to do simulations of specific exoplanets that have been discovered, and hypothetical ones.’
There are many factors that contribute to a planet’s potential habitability, including proximity to its star.
This dictates whether the planet has the right conditions to sustain liquid water; if it’s too close, or too far, the surface could be dry and barren, or completely frozen.
And, from what’s known about life on Earth, water is key.
‘Everywhere we look, whether it’s a desert or Antarctica or the deepest parts of the ocean or the deepest parts of Earth’s crust that we’ve explored, as long as there’s a tiny speck of liquid water, there’s life,’ NASA explains in a new video, How to Find a Living Planet.
Note: Life =/= intelligent life. That’s a whole different kettle of extraterrestrial fish, despite the fondest imaginings of the science-fiction writer in me. Fascinating as it would be, I’d settle instead for just finding some intelligent life in Congress.
But, I digress.
Enceladus and Europa are the prime candidates in our Solar System, but assembling the tech to go and look even there is an expensive and daunting task. I’d love to see it happen in my lifetime, but I’m resigned to hoping my grandkids see it happen, and hope they will view any discovery with the same sense of wonder I would have.
As for other solar systems – well, the Galaxy abounds with planets, but the only we could detect life would be by detecting the spectral lines of, say, chlorophyll in an alien atmosphere. That, also, is a ways off yet,
In the meantime, I’ll have to satisfy myself with science fiction.