Anda di halaman 1dari 11

Background[edit]

Alien life, such as bacteria, has been hypothesized to exist in the Solar System and throughout the
universe. This hypothesis relies on the vast size and consistentphysical laws of the observable
universe. According to this argument, made by scientists such as Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking,
it would be improbable for lifenot to exist somewhere other than Earth.
[3][4]
This argument is embodied
in the Copernican principle, which states that the Earth does not occupy a unique position in the
Universe, and the mediocrity principle, which suggests that there is nothing special about life on
Earth.
[5]
Life may have emerged independently at many places throughout the Universe. Alternatively
life may form less frequently, then spread between habitable planets through panspermia or
exogenesis.
[6]
In any case,complex organic molecules necessary for life may have formed in
the protoplanetary disk of dust grains surrounding the Sun before the formation of the Earth based
on computer model studies.
[7]
According to these studies, this same process may also occur around
other stars that acquire planets.
[7]
(Also see Extraterrestrial organic molecules.) Suggested locations
at which life might have developed include the planets Venus
[8]
and Mars, Jupiter's
moon Europa,
[9]
and Saturn's moonsTitan and Enceladus.
[10]
In May 2011, NASA scientists reported
that Enceladus "is emerging as the most habitable spot beyond Earth in the Solar System for life as
we know it".
[11]

Since the 1950s, scientists have promoted the idea that "habitable zones" are the most likely places
for life to be found. Numerous discoveries in this zone since 2007 have stimulated estimations of
frequencies of Earth-like habitats numbering in the many billions
[12][13]
though as of 2013, only a small
number of planets have been discovered in these zones.
[14]
Nonetheless, on November 4, 2013,
astronomers reported, based on Kepler space mission data, that there could be as many as 40
billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars and red dwarfs in
the Milky Way,
[15][16]
11 billion of which may be orbiting Sun-like stars.
[17]
The nearest such planet may
be 12 light-years away, according to the scientists.
[15][16]
Astrobiologists have also considered a
"follow the energy" view of potential habitats.
[18][19]

No widely accepted evidence of extraterrestrial life has been found; however, various controversial
claims have been made.
[20]
Beliefs that some unidentified flying objects are of extraterrestrial
origin,
[21]
along with claims of alien abduction,
[22]
are dismissed by most scientists. Most UFO
sightings are explained either as sightings of Earth-based aircraft or known astronomical objects, or
as hoaxes.
[23]

In November 2011, the White House released an official response to two petitions asking the U.S.
government to acknowledge formally that aliens have visited Earth and to disclose any intentional
withholding of government interactions with extraterrestrial beings. According to the response, "The
U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial
presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race."
[24][25]
Also, according to the
response, there is "no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the
public's eye."
[24][25]
The response further noted that efforts, likeSETI, the Kepler space telescope and
the NASA Mars rover, continue looking for signs of life. The response noted "odds are pretty high"
that there may be life on other planets but "the odds of us making contact with any of them
especially any intelligent onesare extremely small, given the distances involved."
[24][25]

Possible basis[edit]
Several hypotheses have been proposed about the possible basis of alien life from
a biochemical, evolutionary or morphological viewpoint.
Biochemistry[edit]
Main articles: Biochemistry, Hypothetical types of biochemistry and Water and life
All life on Earth is based upon 26 chemical elements. However, about 95% of this life is built upon
only six of these elements: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen,phosphorus and sulfur,
abbreviated CHNOPS. These six elements form the basic building blocks of virtually all life on Earth,
while most of the remaining elements are found in only trace amounts.
[26]

Life on Earth requires water as the solvent in which biochemical reactions take place. Sufficient
quantities of carbon and the other elements along with water, may enable the formation of living
organisms on other planets with a chemical make-up and temperature range similar to that of
Earth.
[27]
Terrestrial planets such as Earth are formed in a process that allows for the possibility of
having compositions similar to Earth's.
[28]
The combination of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in the
chemical form of carbohydrates (e.g. sugar) can be a source of chemical energy on which life
depends, and can provide structural elements for life (such as ribose, in the
molecules DNA and RNA, and cellulose in plants). Plants derive energy through the conversion of
light energy into chemical energy via photosynthesis. Life, as currently recognized, requires carbon
in both reduced (methane derivatives) and partially oxidized (carbon oxides) states. Nitrogen is
needed as a reduced ammoniaderivative in all proteins, sulfur as a derivative of hydrogen sulfide in
some necessary proteins, and phosphorus oxidized to phosphates in genetic material and in energy
transfer.
Pure water is useful because it has a neutral pH due to its continued dissociation
between hydroxide and hydronium ions. As a result, it can dissolve both positivemetallic ions and
negative non-metallic ions with equal ability. Furthermore, the fact that organic molecules can be
either hydrophobic (repelled by water) orhydrophilic (soluble in water) creates the ability of organic
compounds to orient themselves to form water-enclosing membranes. Additionally, the hydrogen
bondsbetween water molecules give it an ability to store energy with evaporation, which
upon condensation is released. This helps to moderate the climate, cooling the tropics and warming
the poles, helping to maintain the thermodynamic stability needed for life.
Carbon is fundamental to terrestrial life for its immense flexibility in creating covalent chemical
bonds with a variety of non-metallic elements, principally nitrogen,oxygen and hydrogen. Carbon
dioxide and water together enable the storage of solar energy in sugars and starches, such
as glucose. The oxidation of glucose releases biochemical energy needed to fuel all other
biochemical reactions.
The ability to form organic acids (COOH) and amine bases (NH2) gives rise to the possibility
of neutralization dehydrating reactions to build
long polymer peptidesand catalytic proteins from monomer amino acids. When combined
with phosphates, these acids can build the information-storing molecule of inheritance, DNA, and the
principal energy transfer molecule of cellular life, ATP.
Due to their relative abundance and usefulness in sustaining life, many have hypothesized that life
forms elsewhere in the universe would utilize these basic materials. However, other elements and
solvents could provide a basis for life. Life forms based in ammonia (rather than water) have been
suggested, though this solution appears less optimal than water.
[29]

From a chemical perspective, life is fundamentally a self-replicating reaction, but one which could
arise under a great many conditions and with various possible ingredients, though carbon-oxygen
within the liquid temperature range of water seems most conducive. Suggestions have even been
made that self-replicating reactions of some sort could occur within the plasma of a star, though it
would be highly unconventional.
[30]
Life on the surface of a neutron star, based on nuclear reactions,
has also been suggested. However, communicating with such creatures would be difficult because
the time scales involved are much faster.
[31]

Several pre-conceived ideas about the characteristics of life outside Earth have been questioned.
For example, a NASA scientist suggested that the color ofphotosynthesizing pigments of
hypothetical life on extrasolar planets might not be green.
[32]

Evolution and morphology[edit]
In addition to the biochemical basis of extraterrestrial life, many have considered evolution
and morphology. Science fiction has often depicted extraterrestrial life
withhumanoid or reptilian forms. Aliens have often been depicted as having light green or grey skin,
with a large head, as well as four limbsi.e. fundamentally humanoid. Other subjects, such
as felines, insects, blobs, etc., have occurred in fictional representations of aliens.
A division has been suggested between universal and parochial (narrowly restricted) characteristics.
Universals are features which are thought to have evolved independently more than once on Earth
(and thus, presumably, are not too difficult to develop) and are so intrinsically useful that species will
inevitably tend towards them. The most fundamental of these is probably bilateral symmetry, but
more complex (though still basic) characteristics include flight, sight, photosynthesis andlimbs, all of
which are thought to have evolved several times here on Earth. There is a huge variety of eyes, for
example, and many of these have radically different working schematics and different visual foci:
the visual spectrum, infrared, polarity and echolocation. Parochials, however, are essentially
arbitrary evolutionary forms. These often have little inherent utility (or at least have a function which
can be equally served by dissimilar morphology) and probably will not be replicated. Intelligent aliens
could communicate through gestures, as deaf humans do, by sounds created from structures
unrelated to breathing, which happens on Earth when, for instance, cicadas vibrate their wings
or crickets stridulate their wings, or visually through bioluminescence or chromatophore-like
structures.
Attempting to define parochial features challenges many taken-for-granted notions about
morphological necessity. Skeletons, which are essential to large terrestrial organisms according to
the experts of the field of gravitational biology, are almost assured to be replicated elsewhere in one
form or another. The assumption of radical diversity amongst putative extraterrestrials is by no
means settled. While many exobiologists do stress that the enormously heterogeneous nature of life
on Earth foreshadows an even greater variety in outer space, others point out that convergent
evolution may dictate substantial similarities between Earth and extraterrestrial life. These two
schools of thought are called "divergionism" and "convergionism" respectively.
[30]

Planetary habitability in the Solar System[edit]
See also: Planetary habitability and Natural satellite habitability
Some bodies in the Solar System have been suggested as having the potential for an environment
that could host extraterrestrial life, particularly those with possiblesubsurface oceans. Though due to
the lack of habitable environments beyond Earth, should life be discovered elsewhere in the Solar
System, astrobiologists suggest that it will more likely be in the form
of extremophile microorganisms.
The planets Venus and Mars, along with several natural satellites orbiting Jupiter and Saturn, and
even comets, are suspected to possess niche environments in which life might exist. A subsurface
marine environment on Jupiter's moon Europa might be the most suitable habitat in the Solar
System, outside Earth, formulticellular organisms.
Panspermia suggests that life elsewhere in the Solar System may have a common origin. If
extraterrestrial life was found on another body in the Solar System, it could have originated from
Earth just as life on Earth may have been seeded from elsewhere (exogenesis). The Living
Interplanetary Flight Experiment, developed by the Planetary Society launched in 2011 was
designed to test some aspect of these hypotheses, but it was destroyed along with the
carrier Fobos-Gruntmission.
[33]
The first known mention of the term Panspermia was in the writings of
the 5th century BC Greek philosopher Anaxagoras.
[34]
In the nineteenth century it was again revived
in modern form by several scientists, including Jns Jacob
Berzelius (1834),
[35]
Kelvin (1871),
[36]
Hermann von Helmholtz (1879)
[citation needed]
and, somewhat later,
by Svante Arrhenius (1903).
[37]
Sir Fred Hoyle (19152001) and Chandra Wickramasinghe (born
1939) were important proponents of the hypothesis who further contended that lifeforms continue to
enter the Earth's atmosphere, and may be responsible for epidemic outbreaks, new diseases, and
the genetic novelty necessary for macroevolution.
[38]

Directed panspermia concerns the deliberate transport of microorganisms in space, sent to Earth to
start life here, or sent from Earth to seed new stellar systems with life. The Nobel prize
winner Francis Crick, along with Leslie Orgel proposed that seeds of life may have been purposely
spread by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization,
[39]
but considering an early "RNA world". Crick
noted later that life may have originated on Earth.
[40]

In a virtual presentation on Tuesday, April 7, 2009, Stephen Hawking discussed the possibility of
building a human base on another planet and gave reasons why alien life might not be contacting
the human race, during his conclusion of the Origins Symposium at Arizona State University.
Hawking also talked about what humans may find when venturing into space, such as the possibility
of alien life through the theory of panspermia.
[41]

On August 20, 2014, Russian cosmonauts claimed to have found sea plankton living on
the outside window surfaces of the International Space Station and have been unable to explain how
it got there.
[42][43]

Venus[edit]
Carl Sagan, David Grinspoon, Geoffrey A. Landis and Dirk Schulze-Makuch have put forward a
hypothesis that microbes could exist in the stable cloud layers 50 km (31 mi) above the surface
of Venus; the hypothesis is based on the premises of hospitable climates and chemical
disequilibrium.
[44][45][46]

Mars[edit]
Main article: Life on Mars
See also: Water on Mars
Life on Mars has been long speculated. Liquid water is widely thought to have existed on Mars in the
past, and there may still be liquid water beneath the surface. It may also be present as thin films of
salty brine in the first centimeter or so of the soil for part of the year in some locations.
[47][48]
The origin
of the potential biosignature of methane in Mars atmosphere is unexplained, although abiotic
hypotheses have also been proposed.
[49]
By July 2008, laboratory tests aboard NASA's Phoenix
Mars Lander had identified water in a soil sample. The lander's robotic arm delivered the sample to
an instrument which identifies vapours produced by the heating of samples. Photographs from
the Mars Global Surveyor from 2006 showed evidence of recent (i.e. within 10 years) flows of a
liquid on Mars's frigid surface.
[50]
There is evidence that Mars had a warmer and wetter past: dried-up
river beds, polar ice caps, volcanoes and minerals that form in the presence of water have all been
found. Nonetheless, present conditions on Mars may support life since lichens were found to
successfully survive Martian conditions in the Mars Simulation Laboratory (MSL) maintained by
the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
[51][52]
In June 2012, scientists reported that measuring the ratio
of hydrogen andmethane levels on Mars may help determine the likelihood of life on
Mars.
[53][54]
According to the scientists, "...low H2/CH4 ratios (less than approximately 40) indicate that
life is likely present and active."
[53]
Other scientists have recently reported methods of detecting
hydrogen and methane in extraterrestrial atmospheres.
[55][56]
On December 9, 2013, NASA reported
that, based on evidence from Curiosity studying Aeolis Palus, Gale Crater contained an ancient
freshwater lake that could have been a hospitable environment for microbial life.
[57][58]

On January 24, 2014, NASA reported that current studies on the planet Mars by
the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers will now be searching for evidence of ancient life, including
a biosphere based on autotrophic, chemotrophic and/or chemolithoautotrophic microorganisms, as
well as ancient water, including fluvio-lacustrine environments (plains related to
ancient rivers or lakes) that may have been habitable.
[59][60][61][62]
The search for evidence
of habitability, taphonomy (related tofossils), and organic carbon on the planet Mars is now a
primary NASA objective.
[59]

Ceres[edit]
Ceres, a dwarf planet, has recently been confirmed by the Herschel Space Observatory to have
water vapor in its atmosphere.
[63][64]
Frost on the surface may also have been detected.
[65]
The
presence of water, and the temperatures on Ceres has led to speculation that life may be possible
there.
[66][67][68]
The Dawn space probe is scheduled to enter orbit around Ceres in spring 2015.
[69]

Jupiter[edit]
Carl Sagan and others
[70]
in the 1960s and 1970s computed conditions for hypothetical amino acid-
based macroscopic life in the atmosphere of Jupiter, based on observed conditions of this
atmosphere. However, the conditions do not appear to permit the type of encapsulation thought
necessary for molecular biochemistry, so life is thought to be unlikely.
[71]

However, some of Jupiter's moons may have habitats capable of sustaining life. Scientists have
suggested that heated subsurface oceans of water may exist deep under the crusts of the three
outer Galilean moonsEuropa, Ganymede, and Callisto. The EJSM/Laplace mission is planned to
determine the habitability of these environments. However, Europa is seen as the main target for the
discovery of life.
Europa[edit]

Subsurface oceans such as the one pictured of Europa could possibly harbor life.
[72]

Jupiter's moon Europa has been subject to speculation about the existence of life due to the strong
possibility of liquid water beneath an ice layer. Hydrothermal vents on the bottom of the ocean, if
they exist, may warm the ice and could be capable of supporting multicellular microorganisms.
[9]
It is
also possible that Europa could support aerobic macrofauna using oxygen created by cosmic rays
impacting its surface ice.
[73]

The case for life on Europa was greatly enhanced in 2011 when it was discovered that vast lakes
exist within Europa's thick, icy shell. Scientists found that ice shelves surrounding the lakes appear
to be collapsing into them, thereby providing a mechanism through which life-forming chemicals
created in sunlit areas on Europa's surface could be transferred to its interior.
[74][75]

On December 11, 2013, NASA reported the detection of "clay-like minerals"
(specifically, phyllosilicates), often associated with organic materials, on the icy crust of Europa, a
moon of Jupiter.
[76]
The presence of the minerals may have been the result of a collision with
an asteroid or comet according to the scientists.
[76]

Saturn[edit]
Although astronomers consider Saturn inhospitable to life,
[citation needed]
its natural satellites Titan and
Enceladus have been speculated to possess possible habitats for life.
Titan[edit]
Main article: Life on Titan
Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, is the only known moon with a significant atmosphere. Data from
the CassiniHuygens mission refuted the hypothesis of a globalhydrocarbon ocean, but later
demonstrated the existence of liquid hydrocarbon lakes in the polar regionsthe first stable bodies
of surface liquid discovered outside Earth.
[77][78][79]
Analysis of data from the mission has uncovered
aspects of atmospheric chemistry near the surface which are consistent withbut do not provethe
hypothesis that organisms there are consuming hydrogen, acetylene and ethane, and producing
methane.
[80][81][82]

An alternate explanation for the hypothetical existence of microbial life on Titan has already been
formally proposed
[83][84]
hypothesizing that microorganisms could have left Earth when it suffered a
massive asteroid or comet impact (such as the impact that created Chicxulub crater only 66 mya),
and survived a journey throughspace to land on Titan.
Enceladus[edit]
Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, has some of the conditions for life including geothermal activity and
water vapor as well as possible under-ice oceans heated by tidal effects. The Cassini probe
detected carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygenall key elements for supporting living organisms
during a fly-by through one of Enceladus's geysers spewing ice and gas in 2005. The temperature
and density of the plumes indicate a warmer, watery source beneath the surface. However, no life
has been detected.
[49]

Small Solar System bodies[edit]
Small Solar System bodies have also been suggested as habitats for extremophiles. Fred Hoyle has
proposed that microbial life might exist on comets.
[85]
Live bacteria were found on the camera of the
Surveyor 3 probe that had stayed on the surface of the Moon for two and a half years.
[citation needed]
This
finding was later considered doubtful as sterile procedures may not have been fully followed.
Scientific search[edit]

The NASA Kepler for the search for extrasolar planets.
The scientific search for extraterrestrial life is being carried out both directly and indirectly.
Direct search[edit]
See also: Life Extraterrestrial life and List of molecules in interstellar space
Scientists are directly searching for biosignatures within the Solar System, carrying out studies on
the surface of Mars and examining meteors which have fallen to Earth. At the moment, no concrete
plan exists for exploration of Europa for life. In 2008, a joint mission by NASA and the European
Space Agency was announced that would have included studies of Europa.
[86]
However, in 2011
NASA was forced to deprioritize the mission due to a lack of funding, and it is possible that the ESA
will take on the mission by itself.
[87]

There is some limited evidence that microbial life might possibly exist (or have existed) on
Mars.
[88]
An experiment on theViking Mars lander reported gas emissions from heated Martian soil
that some argue are consistent with the presence of microbes. However, the lack of corroborating
evidence from other experiments on the Viking lander indicates that a non-biological reaction is a
more likely hypothesis. Independently, in 1996, structures resembling nanobacteria were reportedly
discovered in a meteorite, ALH84001, thought to be formed of rock ejected from Mars. This report is
controversial.

Electron micrograph of martian meteorite ALH84001 showing structures that some scientists think could be fossilized
bacteria-like life forms.
In February 2005, NASA scientists reported that they may have found some evidence of present life
on Mars.
[89]
The two scientists, Carol Stoker and Larry Lemke of NASA's Ames Research Center,
based their claim on methane signatures found in Mars' atmosphere resembling the methane
production of some forms of primitive life on Earth, as well as on their own study of primitive life near
the Rio Tinto river in Spain. NASA officials soon distanced NASA from the scientists' claims, and
Stoker herself backed off from her initial assertions.
[90]

Though such methane findings are still very much in debate, support among some scientists for the
existence of life on Mars seems to be growing: an informal survey conducted at the conference at
which the European Space Agencypresented its findings on methane in Mars' atmosphere, indicated
that 75% of the people present agreed that bacteria once lived on Mars. Roughly 25% agreed that
bacteria inhabit the planet today.
[91]

In November 2011, NASA launched the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover which is designed to
search for past or present habitability on Mars using a variety of scientific instruments. The MSL
landed on Mars at Gale Crater in August 2012.
[92][93][94]

The Gaia hypothesis stipulates that any planet with a robust population of life will have an
atmosphere in chemical disequilibrium, which is relatively easy to determine from a distance
by spectroscopy. However, significant advances in the ability to find and resolve light from smaller
rocky worlds near their star are necessary before such spectroscopic methods can be used to
analyze extrasolar planets.
In March 2011, Richard B. Hoover, an astrobiologist with the Marshall Space Flight Center,
speculated on the finding of alleged microfossils similar
to cyanobacteriain CI1 carbonaceous meteorites.
[95][96]
However, NASA formally distanced itself from
Hoover's claim.
[97][98][99]
See Hoover paper controversy for more details.
In August 2011, findings by NASA, based on studies of meteorites found on Earth, suggests DNA
and RNA components (adenine, guanine and related organic molecules), building blocks for life as
we know it, may be formed extraterrestrially in outer space.
[100][101][102]
In October 2011, scientists
reported that cosmic dustcontains complex organic matter ("amorphous organic solids with a
mixed aromatic-aliphatic structure") that could be created naturally, and rapidly, bystars.
[103][104][105]
One
of the scientists suggested that these compounds may have been related to the development of life
on Earth and said that, "If this is the case, life on Earth may have had an easier time getting started
as these organics can serve as basic ingredients for life."
[103]

In August 2012, and in a world first, astronomers at Copenhagen University reported the detection of
a specific sugar molecule, glycolaldehyde, in a distant star system. The molecule was found around
the protostellar binary IRAS 16293-2422, which is located 400 light years from
Earth.
[106][107]
Glycolaldehyde is needed to form ribonucleic acid, or RNA, which is similar in function to
DNA. This finding suggests that complex organic molecules may form in stellar systems prior to the
formation of planets, eventually arriving on young planets early in their formation.
[108]

In September 2012, NASA scientists reported that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs),
subjected to interstellar medium (ISM) conditions, are transformed,
through hydrogenation, oxygenation and hydroxylation, to more complex organics - "a step along the
path toward amino acids and nucleotides, the raw materials ofproteins and DNA,
respectively".
[109][110]
Further, as a result of these transformations, the PAHs lose their spectroscopic
signature which could be one of the reasons "for the lack of PAH detection in interstellar ice grains,
particularly the outer regions of cold, dense clouds or the upper molecular layers of protoplanetary
disks."
[109][110]

On February 21, 2014, NASA announced a greatly upgraded database for tracking polycyclic
aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the universe. According to scientists, more than 20% of
the carbon in the universe may be associated with PAHs, possible starting materials for
the formation of life. PAHs seem to have been formed shortly after the Big Bang, are widespread
throughout the universe, and are associated with new stars and exoplanets.
[111]

Indirect search[edit]

Terrestrial Planet Finder
If there is an advanced extraterrestrial society, there is no guarantee that it is transmitting
information in the direction of Earth or that this information could be interpreted as such by humans.
The length of time required for a signal to travel across the vastness of space means that any signal
detected, or not detected, would come from the distant past.
Projects such as SETI are conducting an astronomical search for radio activity which would confirm
the presence of intelligent life. A related suggestion is that aliens might broadcast pulsed and
continuous laser signals in the optical, as well as infrared, spectrum;
[112]
laser signals have the
advantage of not "smearing" in the interstellar medium, and may prove more conducive to
communication between the stars. While other communication techniques, including laser
transmission and interstellar spaceflight, have been discussed seriously and may well be feasible,
the measure of effectiveness is the amount of information communicated per unit cost. This results
in radio transmission as the method of choice.
[citation needed]

Some have hypothesized that very advanced civilizations may create artificial black holes as an
energy source or method of waste disposal. Thus, they suggest that the observation of a black hole
with a mass of less than 3.5 solar masses, the theoretical lower mass limit for a naturally occurring
black hole, would be evidence of an alien civilization.
[113]