NASA scientists believe the existence of alien life is not that far away from Earth. Life could be found on any number of dwarf planets or moons in the solar system and scientists are predicting that some form of alien life will be discovered between 2025 and 2045.
Thoughts of alien life came up in a forum last week with NASA scientists during a discussion on places in outer space that could sustain life. Ellen Stofan, NASA chief scientist, predicts that there will be more solid indicators of alien life within the next 10 years. She also believes there will be definitive proof of life somewhere in the universe within the next 30 years.
Stofan’s statements are the result of further study of several dwarf planets and of nearby moons. Any of them could sustain life, scientists said. Scientists now know where to look to find possible life, she said.
One of those places is Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moon, which could have an ocean. A saltwater ocean has been found on Jupiter’s moon, Ganymede. Another of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, provides even more hope of life for scientists. Europa has an ocean, but also has other factors that would make alien life more possible. Mars also remains a viable candidate for alien life, according to Stofan.
Ethan Siegal, a physics professor at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., said in an article on the subject that scientists look first for liquid water and then for changes in molecules to determine whether life could exist. Scientists also study a planet’s starlight to determine the type of molecules making up the atmosphere, by the way the starlight moves through space. NASA scientists are keen on studying these molecules, to prove their belief that the existence of alien life is not far away from Earth.
NASA scientists said the fast-forward pace of discovering life in outer space is largely due to technological advances of the past 20 years. Improved satellite imaging that far out perform NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have done much to propel scientists in the direction of finding alien life. Siegal said NASA scientists have much better resources to study molecules than ever before, and that can narrow down possibilities for those looking for life.
The idea of alien life, for scientists, is not the aliens that people see in movies, television shows or in UFO files reportedly kept in secret stashes. NASA scientists classify “life” to be more on a molecular level, perhaps similar to that found when Earth first came into existence. Stofan, a geologist as well as an astronomer, said her personal view is that eventually scientists will collect various small life forms from the surface of Mars and bring them back to Earth for study.
NASA is already making some headway investigating one mysterious dwarf planet in the solar system. Jet Propulsion Laboratory officials announced this week that the Dawn spacecraft is sending pictures from Ceres, one of this solar system’s five known dwarf planets, to NASA. Ceres also has the distinction of being the largest planet in the asteroid belt existing between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres is believed to be an icy planet, but could hold some significance in studying how this solar system evolved, according to scientists.
Scientists are particularly interested in certain spots that may show water, ice and salts. Those high-quality pictures are expected to start coming to NASA in late April. More scientific study of Ceres and other planets in the solar system will eventually give proof to NASA scientists’ belief that the existence of alien life is not that far away from Earth, and closer than any ever thought possible.
By Melody Dareing