Extraterrestrial Life in Our Solar System

Life is a delicate topic for most to talk about. Usually in today’s society religion and science are butting heads. In this essay let’s not discuss the religious or scientific aspects of where life came from. Let us discuss the where life is and could be. The Vatican’s chief astronomer was interviewed and said this “Just like there is an abundance of creatures on earth, there could also be other beings, even intelligent ones, that were created by God. That doesn’t contradict our faith, because we cannot put boundaries to God’s creative freedom. As saint Francis would say, when we consider the earthly creatures to be our “brothers and sisters”, why couldn’t we also talk about a “extraterrestrial brother”? He would still be part of creation.” (Fr. Funes) so we all agree; science and religion alike, that life may exist elsewhere. But what we obviously can’t go headstrong into the cosmos with today’s technology. So let’s study what we have closer at hand with the planets and moons in our very own solar system. We will start out with our very own moon and some of the things that may or may not have been seen on the surface. Next we will take a trip to mars where evidence for life is becoming more and more evident. Then it’s on to the moon Phobos where the moon may be hiding a very big secret. After we will take a look at life and why it’s classified as it is.

Let’s first take a minute to talk about life and what science uses to define life. Well they like to throw water out there a lot. We can see how they come to this conclusion because the creatures and life forms here on earth are almost all dependent on water. Who is to say that on some distant planet life couldn’t have evolved to thrive on for example, liquid nitrogen? Another sign is that life is made up of carbon. But why couldn’t life somewhere else be built from silicon? Silicon has a very similar structure as carbon and in some cases is a superior mineral. As for needing to breathe we will discuss in the next paragraph about a bacteria known as an extremophile that not only can live without the aid of oxygen but exist in environments that would be uninhabitable to man. Life is a very tenacious thing. It thrives in every corner of our small little blue dot. Why not in every little nook and cranny in our big pinwheel of a galaxy? As actor Jeff Goldblume said in Jurassic Park “life finds a way”.

Let’s look at the moon we see all the time and ask ourselves “could life exist in an environment without an atmosphere? Well first you need to ask yourself “can life exist without oxygen?” . Well until recently most people would have looked at you like you had two heads. But scientists can now show that one such life form does exist and its right here on earth. Spirochaeta Americana is a bacteria type known as an extremophile. These bacteria not only don’t need oxygen to survive but they thrive in highly acidic environments. Now we have shown life can live without the existence of oxygen but can life survive without water? Well that’s also one we won’t have to worry about on the moon. Scientists have recently tested and proven the moon to have an extreme amount of ice water under its surface. No we won’t be able to drink this water, but it shows how abundant water may be in our solar system.

Now let’s hop in our space craft and travel a few more miles out to a little red planet we know as Mars. This planet has been the point of conversation for scientist the world over. Little green men, Martians, space invaders, they all seem to come from Mars in any old black and white sci-fi movie you see. Along with being our neighbor the planet sports some very interesting monuments to support the idea that maybe if not now but sometime in the distant past intelligent life was present. But speculation aside let’s look at the physical evidence that may show some sort of at least micro-organisms may or could exist on mars today. First off let’s talk water again for years we were told mars had no water but yet we see now not only does it have frozen water but it may have liquid water under the surface. So let’s say we have water.. That doesn’t mean there has to be life right? Well test any water in nature here on earth that hasn’t been filtered and cleaned and you will be shocked at the amount of life in just a teaspoon. But no water doesn’t prove the existence of life. But methane might. Methane is a natural gas that is produced by a biological reaction. So what you may say. But satellites orbiting mars have recorded small levels of methane emanating from the surface of mars. Now if there isn’t life, at least at a micro level, then where is the methane coming from?

Farther out in our solar system is Saturn and its rings. But Saturn also holds another great wonder besides its unique set of rainbow like rings, it also has a moon that may not only be holding life under its surface but may be ejecting microscopic biological organisms into space. What wonder of space could this be you ask? Saturn’s Moon Enceladus is covered in liquid water. The moon ejects plumes of water into space from what we can only assume are massive geysers. “In June, the European Space Agency announced that its Herschel Space Observatory, which has important NASA contributions, had found a huge donut-shaped cloud, or torus, of water vapor created by Enceladus encircling Saturn. The torus is more than 373,000 miles (600,000 kilometers) across and about 37,000 miles (60,000 kilometers) thick. It appears to be the source of water in Saturn’s upper atmosphere” (Sullivant). Geysers mean warmth, what do we find here on Earth in warm water? Life. Now this is purely speculation of course but if this moon happened to not only hold life but be ejecting it into space, who is to say life on earth wasn’t seeded from such a moon? And if this moon happened to eject a bunch of water into space and it froze and wandered to Earth why couldn’t it have done the same on other planets? Now your first question may be can can life service in ice in space that cold? Well scientist Jody Deming has been studying life in extreme cold conditions and says “We know that many sea ice organisms carry genes that allow them to produce EPS material that protects against freezing and osmotic shock. This material provides cryoprotection against freezing and osmoprotection against salt shock, both of which happen to any organism that goes through a freeze-thaw cycle in seasonal sea ice and that experiences shifts from freshwater to saltwater or from saltwater to freshwater.”

Intelligent design vs. evolution has more recently become one of the big topics of debate in the religious and scientific community. Let’s pose a question to each side of this debate. Why can’t both exist? What makes it so impossible that planets where seeded by intelligent beings, be them a god or another race. You may ask why we haven’t seen evidence of this if it is possible. We may not only have evidence of it here on Earth but also on another planet in our system. First let’s look at Earth and it’s continually discovery of new life just on our planet. What is one of the most important components to life on Earth? The Moon. The Moon not only affects our tides as everyone knows but it is also an integral part in our weather system and the currents of the Earth’s oceans. The actual origin of the Moon is unknown but there are a lot of theories. But let’s look at the moons placement. Closer to Earth and it would be drawn in by our gravity. Any farther out and it would hurtle into space. Seems something as important to our planets eco system would just accidently be in orbit. Now you may wonder; where else is something like this in our solar system? Our red cousin planet of Mars and its moon Phobos.

Phobos is much like our moon a small satellite planet revolving around another planet close enough to stay in orbit but not far enough to leave. Let’s theorize that once mars used to hold life and Phobos was its counterweight like our Moon is to us. Let’s speculate further and say that if there was an advance race maybe they made the moon to help sustain a balance weather system on the planet. Is there evidence of Phobos being an artificial planet? Well Richard C Hoagland thinks so, tonight, “sources” have strongly suggested to Enterprise — through a series of in-depth, “no holds barred” conversations … stretching over the last several days — that the European Space Agency (ESA) has, as of tonight, finally, painstakingly, confirmed the existence of precisely such “an artificial, hollow world.” He then goes on to not only talk about how he feels it is an artificial moon but also a space station of sorts. He goes on to talk about it here, In describing the internal geometric structure of this “moon” as revealed by MARSIS, our European ESA contact repeatedly emphasized that “several of these interior Phobos compartments also appear to still be holding some kind of atmosphere ….”. Now this is all speculation and no one has solid evidence to back any of this up 100%. But it is curious that after this article came out President Obama decided it was time to push to get our space exploration to go and visit Phobos and Mars, Early in the next decade, a set of crewed flights will test and prove the systems required for exploration beyond low Earth orbit. (Applause.) And by 2025, we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the Moon into deep space. (Applause.) So we’ll start — we’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. (Applause.) By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it.

And on and end note, for arguments sake, life may not be out there yet. But we will be and Life always finds a way. “our goal is no longer just a destination to reach. Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn and operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time, ultimately in ways that are more sustainable and even indefinite. And in fulfilling this task, we will not only extend humanity’s reach in space — we will strengthen America’s leadership here on Earth”(Obama).

It’s Official: Water Found on the Moon, Andrea Thompson, 2009,web, 2011 http://www.space.com/7328-official-water-moon.html

Enterprise mission, Richard C. Hoagland, web, 2011 http://www.enterprisemission.com/

New Species Of Organism Found In Mars-Like Environment, 2003, web, 2011 http://www.spacedaily.com/news/life-03zj.html

Nasa, 2011,web,2011 www.nasa.gov

Cassini, Rosemary Sullivant,9/21/2011,web,2011 http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/whycassini/cassini20110921.html

Extreme Environments: Is There Life in Sea Ice?, Jody Deming, june 2010, web, 2011 http://www.actionbioscience.org/newfrontiers/deming.html

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