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Scientists Appeal To Congress To Support Technology To Search for Extraterrestrial Life

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candidate planetsGiven how many candidate planets Kepler has identified, and the recently announced estimate that billions of habitable planets may exist in the Milky Way alone, scientists are understandably excited about the prospect of finding alien life. They’re so excited, in fact, that they made a plea to Congress this week to embark on the next phase of searching for life.

Sara Seager, MIT’s exoplanet expert who came up with her own equation to express the probability of finding extra-terrestrial life, spoke at the “Astrobiology: The Search for Biosignatures in our Solar System and Beyond” hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and argued that while we have some technology capable of detecting candidate planets and other life forms, we need more. “This is the first time in human history we have the technological reach to find life on other planets,” she said. “People will look back at us as the ones who found Earth-like worlds.” NASA’s head of astrobiology seconded that, saying that humans finally have the means to gather data about other life forms in the universe, which means it’s incumbent upon us to do so.

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NASA Finds Liquid Water On Europa

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Europa, Jupiter’s largest moon, has often been the second most desired location to explore in the universe after Mars. Now NASA has provided more analysis of the icy moon that includes the possibility of liquid lakes amidst the frozen oceans. The salt water oceans of Europa contain more water than all of Earth’s oceans combined, but the possibility of miles thick ice precluded a reasonable chance that life could be sustained there.

These new findings show that there’s a lake below the surface equal in volume to the Great Lakes in North America. If this is true then there’s a chance that a flow of nutrients could exist between the surface and the oceans below the icy shell. Of course, the data will have to be studied thoroughly before anything solid can be shown.

Water is important in astrobiology because without water there can be no life. Whatever the finding of liquid water actually means for any signs of life, no matter how simplistic, we won’t know for a long while.