The search for life in solar system

Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus, despite their frozen, forbidding surfaces, are hiding vast oceans beneath the ice

By   |  Published: 23rd Feb 2021  11:31 pmUpdated: 23rd Feb 2021  7:46 pm
Representational Image

A tour of our solar system reveals a stunning diversity of worlds, from charbroiled Mercury and Venus to the frozen outer reaches of the OortCloud. In between are a few tantalizing prospects for life beyond Earth ­– subterranean Mars, maybe, or the moons of giant planets with their hidden oceans.

And much hope remains out among the gas giants – not the big planets themselves, but their long list of moons. Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus, despite their frozen, forbidding surfaces, are hiding vast oceans beneath the ice – among several moons with subsurface oceans. Let’s read about the most likely places in our solar system where life or signs of past life could be found

Venus

Venus

A recent study suggested the presence of one potential life sign, the gas phosphine, in the atmosphere. Bacteria on Earth produce it. But  this study is contested.

Mars

Mars

Sub-surface ice or even water could provide a home for microrganisms. Billions of years ago Mars had surface water .

 

Europa

Europa

Evidence of a water ocean under this ice-encased moon which could be potentially habitable. Heat generated by gravitation forces squeezing the moon (tidal heating)

NASA (Clipper) launch date to be confirmed; to make 45 close passes over Europa

Titan

Titan

Could have environments suitable for life – in subsurface ocean or completely different life forms in hydrocarbonliquid on the moon’s surface

NASA (Dragonfly) to launch 2026 and arrive in 2034. Rotorcraft will fly to dozens of locations on Titan

Encaladus

Encaladus

Jets erupting from this moon suggest active hydrothermal vents on floor of subsurface ocean – similar to Earth when

life began billions of years ago. Also warmed by tidal heating.

Mission

-NASA(US): Perseverance rover landed on Feb 18, 2021

-CNSA(China): Tianwen 1 arrived Feb10 in Mars orbit, land in May

-UAE: “Hope” orbiterarrived Feb 9 in Mars orbit

 


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