The case for alien life

Jul 16, 2013
The case for alien life
Professors Ariel Anbar and Steven Desch are quoted in a Popular Mechanics article about the search for life beyond Earth.

Only one planet has been proven to support life: Earth. But evidence is mounting that we are not alone. Biogeochemist Ariel Anbar and astrophysicist Steven Desch, professors in ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration, are quoted in the story "The Case for Alien Life" in Popular Mechanics' July/August 2013 issue about the search for life beyond Earth.

Generations of scientists and science-fiction fans have thought we would find life strewn throughout the stars. But for decades the evidence was thin. Now, thanks to sophisticated probes, space telescopes and rovers, the data is on the side of the believers.

Astrobiologists say that the watery worlds in stars' habitable zones, where life is most likely to be found, are still the likeliest places to search for life.

New studies show that organisms may thrive far beyond the boundary of a star's in more , including desert worlds and hurtling asteroids. In our own solar system, Jupiter and Saturn are outside of the sun's habitable zone, according to the standard definition, yet several of their moons are considered among the most promising sites to search.

Desch is quoted in the article as saying, "If life might exist in the subsurface oceans of moons, heated by their own radioactivity, then no distance from the sun is too far. It's beginning to look like the definition of a habitable zone is out the window."

Anbar points out that distant star systems will have varying proportions of elements such as carbon, oxygen and silicon. Such variety could drive evolution in hard-to-imagine directions. "The things we can conceive of are probably a very small set of the possibilities that are out there," Anbar says. "We know we're going to be surprised."

However, there is no guarantee we'll ever find life on .

"Is life a universal phenomenon, a planetary process just like ?" Anbar asks. "Or is life some weird statistical fluke? The only way we can answer that is by searching."

Explore further: Black hole hunters tackle a cosmic conundrum

Related Stories

Red dwarf stars could strip away planetary protection

Jul 02, 2013

(Phys.org) —Red dwarf stars are the commonest type of stars, making up about 75% of the stars in our Galaxy. They are much smaller and much less massive than our Sun and for that reason a lot dimmer. If ...

Can life emerge on planets around cooling stars?

Nov 20, 2012

(Phys.org)—Astronomers find planets in strange places and wonder if they might support life. One such place would be in orbit around a white or brown dwarf. While neither is a star like the sun, both glow and so could be ...

Three planets in habitable zone of nearby star (w/ video)

Jun 25, 2013

(Phys.org) —A team of astronomers has combined new observations of Gliese 667C with existing data from HARPS at ESO's 3.6-metre telescope in Chile, to reveal a system with at least six planets. A record-breaking ...

Could 2012 be the year we find extraterrestrial life?

Jan 19, 2012

Last year came to an exciting end with the discovery of an Earth-like planet, Kepler-22b, orbiting a sun-like star outside of our solar system. It was found by NASA’s Kepler mission and is the first planet ...

Recommended for you

Black hole hunters tackle a cosmic conundrum

10 hours ago

Dartmouth astrophysicists and their colleagues have not only proven that a supermassive black hole exists in a place where it isn't supposed to be, but in doing so have opened a new door to what things were ...

Image: Thor's Helmet nebula in the X-ray spectrum

17 hours ago

This brightly coloured scene shows a giant cloud of glowing gas and dust known as NGC 2359. This is also dubbed the Thor's Helmet nebula, due to the arching arms of gas stemming from the central bulge and ...

Cosmologically complicating dust

18 hours ago

The universe was created 13.7 billion years ago in a blaze of light: the big bang. Roughly 380,000 years later, after matter (mostly hydrogen) had cooled enough for neutral atoms to form, light was able to ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

GSwift7
not rated yet Jul 16, 2013
How appropriate; There's a story about alien life and a story about the future of war in the same magazine.

If life might exist in the subsurface oceans of moons, heated by their own radioactivity, then no distance from the sun is too far. It's beginning to look like the definition of a habitable zone is out the window


I think it's way too early to assume that.

The things we can conceive of are probably a very small set of the possibilities that are out there," Anbar says. "We know we're going to be surprised


Yeah, that's for sure. I do expect to see certain form factors repeated though. Insect-ish wings, snail-ish shells, tree-ish branches, etc. Then there'll be the strange stuff, like dinosaurs. I think all mega-fauna are gonna be exotic, since they have to be highly adapted and specialized.
Puppetgrimm1
not rated yet Jul 17, 2013
If life might exist in the subsurface oceans of moons, heated by their own radioactivity, then no distance from the sun is too far. It's beginning to look like the definition of a habitable zone is out the window


I thought the moons were mostly heated be tidal friction?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.