A new report calls for an international group to focus on finding alien life, and again highlights the likelihood that Earth is not the only planet in our solar system with microbial life.
Two scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center released a report on Monday that will be published in a September issue of the journal Astrobiology. The document calls for a “planetary community” to come together with guidance on when and how to search for life in an “environmentally benign environment,” ideally a world with “the right ratios of climate, water, mineral composition, and habitability.”
The authors, Frank DiLorenzo and Ben Jenkins, say that they plan to hand the report off to NASA as an “expert peer review.”
The scientists say that a new planetary community could be created by a strengthened support for the space agency’s planetary science program, adding that “dedication to alien life search, the energy, time, and resources required, and the large amount of challenging research remain.” They also say that scientists at the heliophysics labs that support their mission “are also actively working on answers to the real questions surrounding how many planets and in what environments they can be found.”
The scientists interviewed by the researchers did not agree on what happens if the search for life doesn’t lead to being found. DiLorenzo and Jenkins feel that discovery of life will not need to be the goal, but it is a crucial part of being able to answer the question of how that life behaves.
If discovery of alien life is unable to be reached, the scientists predict that a different approach will be needed to study the possible effects that any new life would have on Earth, and what would happen in the future. They also think it is “more likely that life would obtain a foothold on a planet’s surface rather than adapt to the environment underground.”
The scientists predict that it would be possible to say with high probability that Earth is at least one of hundreds of possible places where life exists in the Milky Way, but that is not to say that life is not found elsewhere.
According to DiLorenzo and Jenkins, approximately 10 planets in the “Goldilocks zone” have been found – in which the temperature is at the right temperature and conditions are right for the presence of liquid water. The area is where scientists believe life could form.
“Our statement here is that there are many, many planets across our galaxy that are at least as likely to harbour life as Earth,” DiLorenzo said in an interview.