Is life possible elsewhere in the Universe?

2015-06-22 11:23

As far as we know, earth is the only planet that can sustain and support life. But is it possible that somewhere in the universe there are planets buzzing with life as is the case on earth? While this question treads on science fiction territory, many people, including prominent scientists, believe it is very possible that the universe is full of planets that support life. Firstly, I am going to give you a little insight as to how big the universe actually is. The following is an excerpt from one of my previous articles entitled “How big is the Universe”;

“To truly understand the size of the universe and the infinite potential for all that exists, think of this: they say in our universe there are billions of galaxies. Planet earth is in a galaxy known as "the milky way galaxy," and the closest galaxy to ours is the Andromeda galaxy, which is approximately 2.5 million light years away. A light year is the time it takes for a beam of light to travel in one year, a beam of light travels at roughly 300 000 km per second. A light year therefore is equivalent to roughly 9,461,000,000,000 km or 5,878,000,000,000 miles. Planet earth is also in a solar system, and in our galaxy there are thousands of possible solar systems, all with planets. Now they also have a theory that every galaxy has at least one super massive black hole, and inside every super massive black hole is another universe with more galaxies and more black holes. Our universe is probably inside the black hole of a mother universe, and that mother universe could be inside another black hole of another mother universe.” When we see stars in the sky at night, we are literally looking back in time, because the light took many years to travel to earth.

From the above we now realize the universe is extremely large, making the possibilities for life to occur not once but several times over. Life has probably occurred within our solar system millennia ago but has died out due to changing conditions. NASA has sent a scientific vehicle to Mars called the Curiosity Mars Rover. The main goal of Curiosity's $2.5 billion mission is to determine if Mars has ever been able to support microbial life.

The rover found some hints pointing toward past habitability in September 2012, when it rolled through an ancient streambed that mission scientists say probably flowed continuously for more than 1,000 years long ago. And Curiosity sealed the deal a few months later after drilling into rocks at a site called Yellowknife Bay.

Analysis of the drilled samples revealed that Yellowknife Bay was indeed a habitable environment billions of years ago, likely featuring water benign enough to drink, mission team members said. Further study suggested the area was a lake-and-stream system that may have been able to support simple lifeforms for millions of years at a time. (Curiosity has not actually found signs of life; it was not designed to do such work.) If such is the case on Mars which is only (I say only relative to other distances in the universe) 225million km away from earth then life must occur elsewhere.

In order to look at the possibilities of life elsewhere, we must examine what conditions are necessary to support life. We do this by examining life conditions on our own planet. The main requirement for life is liquid water, where there is water, there is most likely life. Temperature on the host planet is also extremely important for life. The planet firstly needs to orbit a star or sun, but it must not be too far from the star or it will be too cold, and if it is too close to the star it will be too hot, it must be just the right distance from the star. Astronomers have a term for the adequate distance a planet is from its star. This is known as the Goldilocks zone. Another condition for life is the right atmosphere on the surface of the planet. If, for instance, you were on the surface of Venus without a space suit you would choke and die. This is because the atmosphere of Venus contains mostly toxic carbon monoxide. On earth our atmosphere consists of nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%), and argon (1%). The rest is comprised of very small amounts of other gases. However, the above is just the general requirement we believe is necessary for life. Life has the capacity to dwell in the most inhospitable conditions as well. Just observe the large variety of species living in the hottest deserts, cliff sides, and icy cold waters.

We now know what conditions are needed for life. But what type of life would there be if these conditions are met? Would life evolve as it has done so on our planet? I think not, evolution is subject to the particular conditions and surroundings an organism inhabits. So if there were the exact same conditions on earth but let’s say, a different gravitational force on a planet, life would evolve a lot differently then what is here. Hollywood is not very good with their portrayals of what alien life might look like. They always portray any form of intelligent extra-terrestrials as anthropomorphic beings, or human like, walking upright on two feet, with hands similar to ours and a large head like ours. As if this is the only way in which intelligence can exist. Our hands only came to be like this from our past climbing trees and eating fruits and nuts. Intelligence was not a prerequisite for our hands being the way they are or vice versa.

But what if we were to come in contact with some form of intelligent beings? They might not be as Hollywood describes with the pure goal of death and destruction. What if they have like a billion years extra evolutionary progress then we do? They would be either be super predatory or super intelligent, of which I think the latter is the inevitable course the evolutionary road will take.

I believe life was not formed on our planet initially. I think life existed, in its most simple carbon based form, at the moment of the big bang, like everything else. Life might be the result of the universe desiring to observe its own grandeur and magnificence. Whatever the case, Earth cannot possibly be the only place in the universe teeming with life.

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