Are we alone in the universe? Is life unique & restricted only to Earth? Maybe Yes, maybe no! But knowing that our universe is so vast, the needle points in the direction of ‘maybe we’re not alone’. Come to think of it, the ingredients of life are not rare, elements like carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen which are essential for life are abundant and spread throughout the universe. So what if such life originated on some other planet in our universe, our galaxy or even our solar system? What if life was transferred via asteroid impacts to other planets from Earth? We won’t know until we visit these planets, but we can study the possibilities of finding life in our solar system.
We know only one type of life, life on Earth. But there can be some other forms of life out there in the universe. Those life forms might have evolved differently to survive on that respective planet. We still don’t know much about life, its evolution and its origin to predict other possible types of life forms. So we try to find worlds where life similar to Earth can be found because we know what life on Earth needs to survive!
Let’s have a look at some potential planets & moons in our solar system where life can be found.
Is Mars suitable for life?
No wonder why Mars is first on the list. Mars & Earth were quite similar 4 billion years ago, Mars had substantial water on its surface. Now a very small amount of water is left in the form of ice. But yes, Mars was once habitable, and there’s a possibility that life might have existed on its surface. Scientists are searching for any remnants of such life forms, it is difficult as that life mostly could be microbial.
Could humans live on Venus?
Venus is not exactly suitable for life as we know it. The atmosphere is very thick and it mostly contains greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, making the surface of Venus very high in temperature. However, scientists found a molecule known as Phosphine in the Venusian atmosphere. Phosphine is known to be formed by only biological activities as of now. From this news, we can say that there’s a tiny possibility that life exists on Venus.
Can Europa be habitable?
Europa is the moon of Jupiter. Even though it’s a moon, it holds the potential to harbour life. Europa is slightly smaller than Earth’s moon, it has a surface made of water ice. Now here’s an interesting fact, this moon has subsurface liquid water, meaning that it has liquid water under its icy surface. The presence of liquid water is a great life signature which gives us the possibility of finding life in this subsurface ocean! NASA has planned a Europa Clipper Mission to have a closer look at Europa, this spacecraft is planned to launch in 2024.
Enceladus : Is Enceladus moon habitable?
Saturn’s moon Enceladus is one of the best places in our solar system where life can be found. Just like Europa, it also has a subsurface ocean. This subsurface ocean has five basic elements of life, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Hydrogen & Sulphur. According to scientists, this ocean may be rich in Phosphorus which is also an important element for life. This makes Enceladus a perfect candidate to support life! NASA has added Enceladus Exploration to their to-do list and we might hear some news on this in the upcoming years.
Titan : Can you breathe on Titan?
Last but not least, Titan. It is the largest moon of Saturn. This moon is slightly larger than planet Mercury. Titan is the only moon known to have a dense atmosphere and liquid on the surface. The surface primarily contains rocky and ice structures. Titan also has ammonia-rich subsurface liquid water. But what exactly makes this moon habitable? Scientists have found rivers, lakes and seas of methane and ethane on the surface of Titan! This is what makes Titan a place where life can be found. Although life here would be different than what we have on Earth. NASA’s Dragonfly mission is dedicated to exploring this moon, which will launch in 2027.
Fascinating, isn’t it? Science has allowed us to study the possibilities of finding life on worlds other than Earth. Now it’s going to cost us decades to explore the solar system through various missions and scientific research until we find alien life forms! Here we talked only about our Solar System, now think of the number of possibilities that lie beyond it!