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Where are we likely to find life in the solar system?

Europa
Credit: NASA JPL-Caltech SETI Institute
Europa
  • Europa
  • Mars
Where are we likely to find life in the solar system?

Scientists keep on discovering new exoplanets, and a number of them may support life. But extraterrestrial life could exist in our own solar system. Here are a few of the more credible candidates.

Mars

During Martian summer, some scientists have noticed the appearance of dark lines in the Horowitz crater. Those lines could be created by the flow of surface water, suggesting that the elements needed for life to exist could be found in combination there. We also know that Mars, in the past, has been home to rivers and lakes. Is there or has there been life on our neighboring planet? Only further explorations will tell.

Enceladus

In 2005 the Cassini spacecraft photographed geysers of frozen water venting near one of the poles of this Saturn moon. We’ve since learned that that water contains organic molecules and hydrogen. Now it so happens that hydrogen can be created only by a hydrothermal process, which means that heat can also be found on this satellite. Water, organic molecules and heat: the three principal ingredients of life!

Europa

This moon of Jupiter’s harbors more water than can be found on Earth. And it’s believed that heat is being produced by way of the movements of the tides on it created by Jupiter’s gravitational pull. The only problem: the water’s imprisoned underneath kilometers of ice, meaning there’s tremendous darkness down there. But who knows?

Venus

A little surprise to end with: Venus, according to some scientists, may have the potential to support life. However, the surface of Venus is a true inferno: the temperature is more than 450 degrees Celsius and the pressure is unbearable. But high up in its atmosphere we find a temperature and a pressure similar to those on Earth. Some people believe in the possibility of finding microbes at those altitudes.

Where is it most probable that we’ll find life in the solar system?

Here’s the opinion of our specialist, André Grandchamps, astronomer at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium:

“Based on data transmitted by the space probes, I think that the Saturn moon Enceladus has the greatest potential to harbor life in primitive form. Nevertheless, future space missions will be needed to validate that hypothesis.”

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