Tag Archives: Extra-Terrestrial Life

Methane in Mars Meteorites Suggests Possibility of Life


Interesting stuff… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: SPACE.com

SPACE.com

Methane in Mars Meteorites Suggests Possibility of Life

Methane, a potential sign of primitive life, has been found in meteorites from Mars, adding weight to the idea that life could live off methane on the Red Planet, researchers say.

This discovery is not evidence that life exists, or has ever existed, on Mars, the researchers cautioned. Still, methane “is an ingredient that could potentially support microbial activity in the Red Planet,” study lead author Nigel Blamey, a geochemist at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, told Space.com.

Methane is the simplest organic molecule. This colorless, odorless, flammable gas was first discovered in the Martian atmosphere by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft in 2003, and NASA’s Curiosity rover discovered a fleeting spike of methane at its landing site last year.

Much of the methane in Earth’s atmosphere is produced by life, such as cattle digesting food. However, there are ways to produce methane without life, such as volcanic activity.

To shed light on the nature of the methane on Mars, Blamey and his colleagues analyzed rocks blasted off Mars by cosmic impacts that subsequently crash-landed on Earth as meteorites. About 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of Martian meteorites have been found on Earth.

The scientists focused on six meteorites from Mars that serve as examples of volcanic rocks there, collecting samples about one-quarter of a gram from each — a little bigger than a 1-carat diamond. All the samples were taken from the interiors of the meteorites, to avoid terrestrial contamination.

The researchers found that all six released methane and other gases when crushed, probably from small pockets inside.

“The biggest surprise was how large the methane signals were,” Blamey said.

Chemical reactions between volcanic rocks on Mars and the Martian environment could release methane. Although the dry thin air of Mars makes its surface hostile to life, the researchers suggest the Red Planet is probably more habitable under its surface. They noted that if methane is available underground on Mars, microbes could live off it, just as some bacteria do in extreme environments on Earth.

“We have not found life, but we have found methane that could potentially support microbes in the subsurface,” Blamey said.

Blamey now hopes to analyze more Martian meteorites. He and his colleagues detailed their findings online today (June 16) in the journal Nature Communications.

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Scientists to Congress: We Have the Technology to Find Alien Life


Interesting stuff… TGORefer to story below. Source: SPACE.com

SPACE.com

By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer 

Planet

For thousands of years, humans have been wondering whether there’s life elsewhere in the universe. Now, the technology finally exists to search for it.

To find extraterrestrial life, be it microbes or intelligent life, scientists need telescopes capable of detecting Earth-like planets in Earth’s neighborhood and ways to detect biological signatures of life or signs of alien technology. While some of these tools already exist, astrobiologists asked the U.S. Congress Dec. 4 to invest in the next chapter of the search for life beyond Earth.

“This is the first time in human history we have the technological reach to find life on other planets,” Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at MIT, said at a House Committee on Science, Space and Technology hearing today. “People will look back at us as the [generation] who found Earth-like worlds.”

Are we alone?

Astrobiology — the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe — has taken a leap forward over the past few years. Members of the science committee expressed enthusiasm for the field’s progress.

“Astrobiology has become a crosscutting theme of all NASA space science endeavors,” and continued funding is important, said Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D., Texas).

The Kepler mission has identified more than 3,500 potential planets outside Earth’s solar system, including 10 that are Earth-size and lie within their star’s habitable zone. And the space-based Hubble and Spitzer telescopes recently imaged the atmospheres of an exoplanet directly.

Meanwhile, the Mars rover Curiosity has found evidence that past conditions on the Red Planet could have supported life. Here on Earth, scientists have found examples of microbes living in the most extreme environments imaginable, from volcanic lakes to glaciers. Find life in such unlikely places suggests it could exist in harsh environments on other planets,

After 50 years, humanity is now in an era when it can provide data for whether life exists elsewhere in the universe, Mary Voytek, NASA’s head of astrobiology, told members of Congress.

The search ramps up

A key part of these efforts will be to look for biological signatures in the atmospheres of other planets. For example, oxygen doesn’t last long by itself, so the presence of oxygen would indicate living organisms were producing it. Another necessity for life on Earth is water, and scientists just announced they have found signatures of water in the atmospheres of five planets (although they are superhot, Jupiter-size planets).

NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) telescope, set to launch in 2017, will search for exoplanets using the transiting method the Kepler mission used to detect planets crossing in front of their host star. The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2018, will be able to peer more closely at some of the planets detected by TESS.

Ultimately, scientists want to image planets directly, but this requires blocking out light from a star so that a planet would be visible. Using a telescope attachment called an internal coronagraph is one way to do this; another way is to build a star shade, a large object shaped like a flower that could be moved independently in space. Scientists need to try both methods to find one that works, Seager said.

The most optimistic estimate for finding life would be within a decade, using the James Webb telescope, Seager said. But she said that a more realistic approach is needed, including a next-generation telescope to succeed the James Webb telescope.

Then there’s the prospect of intelligent life. Space historian Stephen Dick, currently an astrobiology scholar at the Library of Congress, called for renewing efforts to look for intelligent life via the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).

“No bio-signatures would be more important than a radio signal — especially if they have something to say,” Dick said.

And if scientists find life out there, then what?

“The plan is to confirm it first, then tell everybody,” Dick said.

Follow Tanya Lewis on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.

Scientists warn that aliens may come to destroy us


I’ve always believed that there is alien life out there somewhere. The universe is just too big of a place, with billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars, solar systems and planets, for not one celestial body (other than Earth) to have intelligent life. I realize that this is an unpopular view among most people, especially the mentally crippled religious nuts who actually believe that God created the entire universe for the sole purpose of human life. But then again, I also realize that people who believe this stupidity are idiots.

One thing is for certain; if aliens were to someday visit us, they would be at least ten-times more advanced than we are, as that’s the level of technology necessary to traverse the incredibly vast distances of space. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Digital Trends

Digital TrendsBy Jeffrey Van Camp | Digital Trends

There have been 20-30 major Hollywood alien apocalypse movies released in the last year or so, and more are on the way. They’re unavoidable. Some of them are cataloged here, but there are almost too many to count. As such, it’s no wonder that scientists have hostile aliens on the brain. Several researchers have released a study that says there is a good chance aliens will come and wipe us out if they think we’re irresponsible, expanding too quickly, or a number of other reasons, reports the IB Times. The researchers point to humanity’s own history of hostility toward unfamiliar humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas as evidence.

“Just as we did to those beings, the extraterrestrials might proceed to kill, infect, dissect, conquer, displace or enslave us, stuff us as specimens for their museums or pickle our skulls and use us for medical research,” says the study, published in the journal Acta Astronautica.

Another argument is that, by nature, if we contact aliens through programs like SETI, which will be relaunching in September, the aliens we contact will have to be more technologically advanced than us to even communicate properly. And if they have more advanced technology than us, they could come to harm us.

“A core concern is that ETI will learn of our presence and quickly travel to Earth to eat or enslave us,” says the study.

But what has really changed since programs like SETI began? Well there are more of us, but that’s about it. There will always be remote danger in discovering something (or someone) you don’t know. That’s science. Honestly, we think the only real danger here is in how much time scientists are spending watching the trailer for Battleship. Perhaps Hollywood is taking its toll.

(P.S. If you meet an alien, please don’t tell it that we’re planning on leaving earth anytime soon. Also, show it that you are compassionate and recycle. And whatever you do, don’t show it Avatar. Maybe then it won’t kill us all.)

Searching for Alien Life? Try Failed Stars


There is no doubt in my mind, for whatever that’s worth, that there is alien life out there. The universe is just too vast, and has been in existence for far too long (approximately 13.7 billion years) for Earth to be the single cosmological body with life. In fact, not only do I believe there’s life elsewhere in the cosmos; I believe there is intelligent life. I realize this flies in the face of most people, especially those with religious beliefs who think that God created us in his image and that we, and only we, have a purpose in this universe. Personally, I believe that’s all very touching, very romantic and false. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: SPACE.com

Clara Moskowitz, Astrobiology Magazine,

Space.com Clara Moskowitz, Astrobiology Magazine,

The search for alien life usually focuses on planets around other stars. But a lesser-known possibility is that life has sprung up on planets that somehow were ejected from their original solar systems and became free-floating in the universe, as well as on small bodies called sub-brown dwarfs, which are stars so small and dim they are not really stars at all, but function more like planets.

Studies show these bodies could potentially host atmospheres and surfaces where some form of extraterrestrial life could take hold.

Researcher Viorel Badescu of the Polytechnic University of Bucharest in Romania recently investigated the possibilities for life on free-floating planets (FFPs) and sub-brown dwarfs (SBDs) that might contain lakes of the chemical ethane. He found that such life is not impossible, though it would be significantly different from life on Earth.

His findings were detailed in the August 2010 issue of the journal Planetary and Space Science.

Failed stars

Sub-brown dwarfs are not large enough to generate the nuclear fusion that powers normal stars. Having failed as stars, they slowly radiate their internal thermal energy as heat and very dim light – hence, they are extremely hard to detect. Both free-floating planets and sub-brown dwarfs don’t always orbit around a parent star, and can be found in interstellar space.

Lacking a star, life on FFPs and SBDs would have to rely on the body’s internal heat and the decay of radioactive elements for energy. “One may expect a rather stable heat release for long periods of time, exceeding two or three times the present age of the solar system,” said Badescu. Though meager, this heat could be trapped on the object by an optically thick atmosphere.

But life needs more than just heat to thrive. Another important ingredient for habitability is a solvent – a liquid environment where important chemical reactions can occur. Life on Earth uses water as a solvent, but that’s not the only option.

“Synthesis of observational data makes it possible to conceive chemical reactions that might support life involving non-carbon compounds, occurring in solvents other than water,” Badescu wrote in his paper.

In particular, Badescu found that ethane – a compound of carbon and hydrogen – could function well as a solvent for alien life. [5 Bold Claims of Alien Life]

Life without water

It seems odd to consider the possibility of life on an object more massive than Jupiter or Saturn, especially since most scientists think such gas giant planets — with their high radiation, hostile atmospheres and potential lack of a planetary surface — would not harbor life as we know it.

But Badescu said that some sub-brown dwarfs might have lakes or oceans of liquid ethane that could prove quite homey to alien microbes.

The main difference between water and ethane for use as a solvent is that water is a polar molecule, meaning one end of the molecule is positively charged, and one end of it is negatively charged. This has proven integral to Earth life, because the polar properties of water enable certain kinds of molecules to dissolve easily in water, while others remain stable.

The molecules that code for life – DNA and RNA – have electrical charge properties that allow them to change their internal structure – the specific order of the base molecules within them – and still have the same overall physical properties. This is all enabled by the way their charge properties interact with the polar quality of water.

That would not be the case with ethane, which is a non-polar molecule. With DNA and RNA in this situation, “small changes in molecular structure may create large changes in molecular behavior,” Badescu said. “That is not acceptable in an encoding biopolymer that must support Darwinian evolution, in which case, the molecule’s physical properties must remain relatively constant when the informational content changes.”

However, the challenge is not insurmountable – a completely different type of molecule could be used to code life’s blueprint on a FFP or SBD.

Searching for life

Ultimately, free-floating planets and sub-brown dwarfs could prove a fertile place to look for extraterrestrial creatures.

Besides their habitable qualities, these bodies seem to be quite common in the universe. Sub-brown dwarfs weighing between 1 and 13 Jupiter masses may be about as common as stars, Badescu said.

“The total number of FFPs and SBDs may exceed the number of stars by two orders of magnitude, although most of them should be low-mass rock/ice planetary embryos ejected from planetary systems in formation,” i.e. not the type with large gaseous atmospheres that would retain the heat required for life, Badescu said. “Thus, it might be conceivable that FFPs and SBDs are the most common sites of life in the universe.”

Given this fact, he advocated ramping up our efforts to search for free-floating planets and sub-brown dwarfs and to characterize them to determine which might be habitable.

“Present day technology does not allow a systematic search for habitable FFPs and SBDs,” Badescu said. “However, the existing observation programs of young star forming regions should be supplemented with activities related to FFP and SBD identification and characterization.”

This story was provided to SPACE.com by Astrobiology Magazine.

Life Found in a Meteorite? Some Scientists Don’t Buy It


I am far more astonished, yes astonished, that certain scientists dispel the notion that there possibly could be life elsewhere in the universe than I am of the contrary. After all, the science of cosmology has proven that there are probably upwards of 150 billion galaxies in the observable universe, some of which may contain as many as 100 trillion stars. With numbers of this magnitude, is it unreasonable to propose that intelligent life may exist in at least 1 other location other than planet Earth? I think not!

I’ve always believed that if the scientific community was to prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that UFOs are for real and/or that in fact there is intelligent life out there, that the general population would be kept in the dark about the news. This discovery, if ever made, would completely destroy all religious beliefs as they pertain to humans beings made in God’s image for instance, along with countless other “negative” implications about our existence and our place in the cosmos. And I simply don’t believe that people throughout the world as a whole are ready for this kind of information; certainly not in the year 2011.

Naturally, with the passage of time and our access to more and more media, it will become increasingly difficult for new information regarding extra-terrestrial life to be suppressed, once discovered. But certainly world governments will do their best to disqualify such claims. This is my opinion.

For now, those of us with an open mind do not negate the possibility of intelligent life, much less any form of life, somewhere in the cosmos. The probability that Earth is the only rock in all the universe  where life exists is nearly impossible. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: TIME

By MICHAEL D. LEMONICK Michael D. Lemonick Mon Mar 7, 3:30 am ET

The question of where life began is one of the enduring mysteries of science. Charles Darwin himself speculated that it might have happened in “a warm little pond,” while modern biologists think the superheated water around seafloor volcanic vents is a more likely spot.

But a far more exotic proposal has been floating around for years: maybe life first arose in outer space and came to earth fully formed. It’s an astonishing idea, but it’s not completely crazy: after all, astronomers have discovered dozens of organic molecules floating in giant interstellar clouds, and meteorites have been cracked apart to reveal amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. (See pictures of meteors that have fallen from the sky.)

It’s no surprise, then, that a paper just published in the online Journal of Cosmology has suddenly grabbed the world’s attention. Titled “Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites” and authored by NASA scientist Richard Hoover of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, it makes the audacious claim that a meteorite that slammed into France in the 1800s has clear evidence pointing to space-dwelling microbes. “The implications,” says an online synopsis of the paper, “are that life is everywhere, and that life on Earth may have come from other planets.”

Well, maybe. But before anyone gets too excited, a little history lesson is in order. Back in 1996, TIME’s cover trumpeted the astonishing words “Life on Mars.” A NASA scientist claimed he’d found evidence that ancient bacteria had once lived inside a Martian rock that had been picked up in Antarctica (the rock had been blasted from Mars’ surface by an asteroid impact long ago and fallen to earth as a meteorite). Newspapers, magazines and TV broadcasts were all over the story, because while alien visitations are a staple of the UFO crowd, this discovery had a pedigree. Not only was the scientist on NASA’s payroll, it was NASA itself that made the announcement at a major press conference. The paper, meanwhile, had been published in Science, one of the world’s top scientific journals, which gave it even more apparent gravitas. (See reports of the earliest UFO sightings.)

Before long, though, the whole thing went away, as other astronomers took a good look at the evidence and pronounced it completely unconvincing.

Then there was the claim back in the 1960s by Fordham University chemist Bartholomew Nagy that he’d found evidence of life in a meteorite – the very meteorite Hoover is talking about now. That went away too. As did claims in the 1930s that scientists had not only found but also revived dormant bacteria from a meteorite. As did claims in the 1890s of meteorites with fossils inside.

All of this may be why many experts in the field of astrobiology – a perfectly legitimate area of science – paid little mind when an e-mail circulated a few days ago trumpeting the latest life-in-a-meteorite paper. “I get e-mails from them regularly, maybe once every month or two,” says a senior astrophysicist at a major university. “They always sound extremely nutty … so much so that I have never been tempted to investigate more closely.” (See the science of sex in space.)

Blogger and biologist P.Z. Myers puts it a little more pithily: the journal is, he writes, “the ginned-up website of a small group of crank academics.” Some of the articles that have appeared do nothing to dispel this idea include “The Origin of Eternal Life in the Multiverse” and “Sex on Mars: Pregnancy, Fetal Development, and Sex in Outer Space.”

But panspermia – the notion that life wafts through interstellar space, seeding worlds as it goes, is one of the journal’s mainstays. Indeed, a frequent contributor, Chandra Wickramasinghe, of Cardiff University in Wales, has been proving the existence of life in outer space for years. Along with his frequent collaborator, Fred Hoyle, Wickramasinghe has “discovered” viruses and freeze-dried bacteria floating among the stars. (Comment on this story.)

Somehow, though, these revolutionary discoveries have failed to become accepted science. One theory, advanced by some of panspermia’s most avid supporters, is that the scientific establishment simply can’t accept radical new ideas that challenge the conventional wisdom. They laughed at Alfred Wegener, after all, when he proposed the notion of continental drift, and at Barry Marshall when he claimed that bacteria cause ulcers.

It may ultimately turn out that they are wrong to dismiss Richard Hoover as well. But Myers, for one, doesn’t think so. “This work is garbage,” he writes. “I’m surprised anyone is granting it any credibility at all.” As for the Journal of Cosmology, he writes, “I’m looking forward to the publication next year of the discovery of an extraterrestrial rabbit in a meteor.”

In that, however, he may be disappointed. According to blogger David Dobbs, a press release has gone out announcing that the Journal of Cosmology is soon to be no more. The headline on the release doesn’t exactly add to the journal’s credibility: “Journal of Cosmology to Stop Publishing – Killed by Thieves and Crooks.”

See TIME’s list of history’s greatest adventures and explorations.

See the top 10 scientific discoveries of 2010.

View this article on Time.com

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