Is There Life Away From Earth?
This million-dollar question has been plaguing humankind for as long as we can remember. But despite the overwhelming developments in technology nowadays, the answer to this question remains vague at best. Is there life on other planets, or is Earth one of a kind? Let’s take a look at what we know so far.
Is There Life on Other Planets in Our Solar System?
Despite all the Sci-Fi tales and superstition of little green Martians or similar speculations thrown around throughout the years, scientists found no sentient life on any other planet in our Solar System. The Earth is undoubtedly the only planet in our Solar System with the necessary conditions to develop and cultivate sentient life.
However, the chances that there is life on some of the other planets that circle the Sun is high. Wait — don’t get too excited just yet! When we say life, we don’t mean aliens. What we’re talking about are various kinds of microorganisms. Yeah, it might sound disappointing to some, but they’re living beings too!
Extremophile Microorganisms on Other Planets and Moons
Researchers found that some planets and moons of our Solar System have appropriate conditions for the development of particular microorganisms, more precisely, extremophile microorganisms. The most notable (and suitable) is Jupiter’s moon Europa, for instance. Other notable examples of planets or moons with the potential of being home to various microorganisms are Saturn’s moons Enceladus and Titan, the dwarf planet Ceres, and even Mercury in the past.
All of that is only from the data we have successfully collected from these planets’ and moons’ surfaces! Who knows what’s hiding deep below? There is a plausible reason to assume that some of these planets (and moons) have various bacteria and archaea living deep below their crusts. In the case of Earth, 70% of these organisms live deep underground. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet been able to investigate these hypotheses, so these claims are still speculations.
There Was Life on Mars in the Past
Even though we can’t prove the above claims yet, there is one thing we know for sure — Mars used to have water on its surface. Scientists proved that once they found low-volume liquid brines in the planet’s shallow soil. Such a huge discovery brought the question of life on Mars into a whole new perspective.
Just like on Earth, water is the most suitable environment for the development of living organisms. That is why scientists speculate that Mars used to be home to underwater microorganisms in the past.
After further research, primarily conducted by the rover Curiosity in 2013, the data showed plausible evidence of underground water lakes on Mars. This theory has not been proven yet, though, but if it turns out to be accurate, the odds of underwater organisms existing on the planet even today are high.
Is There Life on Other Planets Outside of Our Solar System?
If you thought our previous question was challenging to answer, this one is much harder. The short answer would be — a lot (probably more than you expect). But don’t worry; we’re not going to leave you dry. But before we answer the burning question, we must first define one particular term — exoplanets.
What Are Exoplanets?
An exoplanet is a collective term used to describe a planet orbiting a star. That means Earth and the rest of the planets in our Solar System are all exoplanets. But what do exoplanets have to do with our question?
It’s pretty simple — only planets that orbit around a star can develop conditions suitable for the development of life. Many factors come into play here, including temperature, light, chemical energy, nutrients necessary to sustain life, etc. Also, the planets would have to have sustainable water. With all of these essential factors in mind, it’s not hard to imagine why it would only be possible to sustain life on an exoplanet.
How Many Exoplanets Have the Potential to Sustain Life?
Before we can answer this question, we should first address how many exoplanets there are in the first place.
Currently, there are around 4.000 confirmed exoplanets out there and thousands more that have yet to be confirmed. That number is incredibly small, and that is, unfortunately, due to the limits of our technology. Despite scientists actively developing our space exploration capabilities, it’s a longshot to assume that we will know much more any time soon (if ever).
But if we know so little about these exoplanets, how can we possibly know how many of them may sustain life? That’s just it — we don’t know for sure, but we can guess. And when we say guess, we don’t mean taking a shot in the dark; there is a mathematical equation that researchers use to calculate the answer to our question!
The Drake Equation
You’ve heard that right — when technology fails, math prevails! However, note that the Drake Equation doesn’t give us an infallible answer — it just illustrates the possibilities given everything we know so far. Theis mathematical model considers everything we’ve mentioned above as the requirements to sustain life and makes a prediction. So what are the results?
The Drake Equation estimates that around 60 billion exoplanets in our galaxy alone have the potential to sustain life. That is quite an astonishing number, wouldn’t you agree? And do keep in mind that it only refers to the Milky Way! There are hundreds of billions of other galaxies out there and as many times more planets that could potentially harbor life!
Are you curious about the final verdict is? There are approximately 50 sextillion planets out there with adequate conditions to support life!
Are We Truly Alone in the Universe?
As you have seen from our elaborations above, we don’t have a reliable answer to that question. However, what we do have is centuries of technological development and research, which gives us a pretty decent idea of the answer!
If we were to trust mathematics, there are likely millions of civilizations out there already! Unfortunately, we cannot say that with certainty, so we’ll just have to satisfy our curiosity with these hypotheses!
The real question is — what do you think?