Life Outside Earth?

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Is There Life Outside Earth?

Is There Life Outside Earth?


Earth-sized planets

Scientists are coming out with discoveries about earth-sized planets existing in other stellar systems. Development of astronomy and progress in technology has enabled astronomers to invent powerful equipments like telescopes and spectrometer to study deeply about outer space. Till recently, not much was known about various planets orbiting other stars in our own galaxy Milky Way because of technological limitations. But of late, a good progress has been registered in this field.

Similarity to earth

Recently scientists have found two earth-sized planets orbiting a star (not our sun). These planets can be detected by the Kepler Spacecraft. These planets are the smallest planets orbiting a star resembling our sun. These two planets appear rocky like our earth. But the two planets are very hot as compared to our earth with surface temperature estimated at around 760 Celsius and 425 Celsius respectively.

950 light years away

Scientists view the finding as an encouraging sign for prospects of life elsewhere. For a clue about extraterrestrial life, scientists are trying to find out earth-like planets as potential homes for such ET life. Since its launch in 2009, Kepler telescope has discovered evidence for existence of dozens of earth-sized planets. But the discovery of the two planets is the first confirmed discovery of their existence. Astronomers have named the planets as Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f respectively. The star around which these two planets orbit is around 950 light years away from earth. It is in the direction of the constellation Lyra. It is estimated that the star has a five planets system.

Size does not matter for the existence of life

But I do not understand the logic that life should exist only in earth-sized planets. It is like visiting President Obama in the White House and concluding that every person in earth lives in such a spacious building like White House. It is not the size but the conditions on the planet that are more important to the flourishing of life. In the earth itself, life did not exist in the beginning stage of its formation around five billion years back because the temperature was too hot and the atmospheric composition was different with methane constituting the major component. As the earth cooled and the atmospheric composition changed, life started originating in earth much later. Probably it would have taken around two to three billion years for the right conditions to appear on earth to facilitate formation of life.

Temperature range is important

If such conditions can be found in a planet, life will flourish irrespective of its size. What are these conditions? If you are talking about earth-like life, then the temperature should be in the range of negative 50° Celsius to positive 50° Celsius though in earth itself some creatures like penguins, polar bears and ostriches prefer to live in the extremes of the temperature beyond the above range. Some plants also prefer to grow in hot deserts with little water. But if you ignore exceptions, then the above range of temperature is ideal for flourishing of life.

Oxygen, water and food are essential for life

Presence of oxygen and water are a compelling necessity for the flourishing and survival of the life. Without drinking water, life cannot exist. Even plants and animals living in hot deserts need water for survival. Camel stores it’s many months’ requirement of water in its body and survives. Oxygen is required for respiration. After oxygen and water, the life needs food for survival. Food can be in the form of plants and animals. If a planet has all these ingredients namely right temperature range, water, oxygen and food, then life can flourish.

Life need not necessarily be earth-like

But it is also possible to imagine life different from what exists on our earth. There is no compelling rule that only earth-like life should exist in all places. There are different varieties of life in earth itself. One can well imagine a life breathing ammonia gas and drinking liquid methane. The parts of such a creature could have been designed in such a way to consume liquid methane and breathe ammonia. In our solar system itself, ammonia and methane exist in some of the outer big planets like Jupiter and Saturn. A kind of life could well exist in these planets somewhere by using the ammonia and methane resources. Similarly plants could grow by consuming different chemicals instead of compounds of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium which are consumed by plants in earth.

Life can exist even in the core of stars

I can even say that some forms of life could exist in different temperature range. For example there can be lives that exist in the temperature range of 50° C to 150° C, 150° C to 250° C, 250° C to 350° C etc. What is sauce for a goose is not sauce for the gander. Worse still, it may be poison for the gander. The temperature range existing in earth suits earth-like life only (with exceptions). Different forms of lives may find different ranges of temperature suitable to them for survival. One cannot generalise the rules based on conditions in earth. If this logic is taken to the extreme, then it may even result in a conclusion that life is possible even inside the core of hot stars where the temperature is raging at millions of degrees Celsius. But our scientists will refuse to accept these logics and theories.

Scientists go by set guidelines

But our scientists cannot be faulted for their reasoning and conclusions. Methods of science that have evolved for the last few centuries advocate observing, experimenting and documenting the results. Based on this documentary evidence, results are debated and concluded. Many times there are differences of opinion even among the scientists on a particular matter. Nevertheless, much progress has been made in the realm of science with this dedicated methodology. Mere logic and speculation will not be accepted as scientific evidence by the scientists. Therefore what I have stated will be rejected outright by the scientists. That is not their fault.

I am not bound by the rules of science

I am not a scientist but a thinker. I am not bound by the methodology of science to form my opinions. I am a free bird and can think in different possibilities without minding about evidence. My inner conscience says that life is abundant outside our planet. Life exists even in the most unlikely places. Even in our own Milky Way galaxy, there are around 150 billion stars. If we consider that each star has approximately 20 planets orbiting around it, then there are around 3000 billion planets in our galaxy. If we assume that each planet has around 5 satellites, then there should be around 15000 billion satellites. In addition, there are various objects floating in space like our asteroids. There are also comets. Even if life exists in just one per cent of all these places, there are billions and billions of planets and satellites which can host life.

Evolving and continuous process

Some of these ET Life may be primitive and some advanced. Today’s primitive life may become quite advanced tomorrow. It is pertinent to remember that in earth itself, we, the humans, have become advanced only in the last fifty years or so even though humans have existed on earth for nearly one million years. After a few millions of years, some other creatures, say camels, could become advanced in life. Similarly an advanced life could be completely wiped out due to natural catastrophe, nuclear war, collision of planets etc. If we assume that out of all the planets and satellites, only one per cent of them host life, and then it goes without saying that the remaining 99% has no life. But this situation may change. Many of these places might cool or heat up sufficiently and the chemical composition of these planets and satellites may change to make life survive on them. This may take time, but it is a continuous process. Millions of years back, life could have existed on Mars, our neighbour. Today the life could have been wiped out. A similar fate may fall to our earth also after millions of years. By that time, Venus could change and starting hosting life.

Life can exist in space itself!

To conclude, it is foolish to think that only earth-sized planets can host life. Astronomers and scientists should open their eyes and minds to search for life in all possible places. In fact we may even be surprised to find life in space itself. So far our thinking has been conditioned by the theory that a planet or a satellite is needed for life to flourish. Why can’t it flourish in space itself in suitable conditions?

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