Block 38 Life! How to Find it in our Solar System and Beyond by Award-winning Author, Adventurer and Scientist Mark Kingston Levin PhD
I do not think we are going to find any intelligent green men or green women on these moons of Saturn and Jupiter. There is a chance that primitive organisms could live in deep ocean trenches or where chemicals are emitted from hydrothermal vents as we found in our deep oceans.
Billionaire Yuri Milner talks about a New Breakthrough Prize category for finding life outside Earth, the largest financial reward about $3 million, for finding life such as on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn or elsewhere like Mars. It is not an easy job and will cost more than three million to get there. However, it would be a wonderful prize.
Figure 1. An Example of chemosynthesis in hydrothermal vents. Credit: Wikipedia
We need to understand that there may be a chance that the oceans on some moons of Jupiter and Saturn could be places to look for life. The geysers could carry life or evidence of life near their openings and microbes could be emitted by geysers we have observed on several moons. That is why NASA has plans to visit Europa. Yuri Milner is one of the founders of the Breakthrough Prize. He has been thinking about establishing a special prize for the scientist who discovers life. In this way he may encourage private industry to search for life. I love the idea.
Figure 2. Finding Life below these Subglacial Lakes, Antarctica.is an Important Discovery for Astrobiologists.
Credit: NASA map by Robert Simmon, based on data from the Radarsat Antarctic Mapping Project, Ted Scambos, Chris Shuman, and Martin J. Siegert / Courtesy of NASA’s Earth Observatory — http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Geophysical Research Letters scientists from Northumbria University, the University of Edinburgh and the British Antarctic Survey proposed a good drilling site for exploring Lake Ellsworth, which is a sub-glacial lake about the same size as Oregon’s Crater Lake.
We have yet to drill down into these subglacial lakes in Antarctica. But microbiologists believe that such lakes could harbor unique forms of life. These hypothetical microbes were cut off from almost everything but water for millions of years.
I would suggest that someone start drilling, so we can observe these creatures with light and cameras without contamination.
Other scientists have proposed a hypothesis that sediments on the lake floors could contain records and other information about the history, which can change our understanding of climate.
Dr John Woodward, from Northumbria University’s School of Applied Sciences, commented: “The location provides a deep water column for sampling and reduces the risk from possible basal-freezing mechanisms. It optimizes the chances of recovering an undisturbed, continuous sedimentary sequence from the lake floor, and minimizes the potential for trapped gases to gain entry to the borehole.”
Dr Andy Smith of the British Antarctic Survey added: “This is an eagerly anticipated result — the final piece of the jigsaw that we need to plan the exploration of Lake Ellsworth. That exploration can now go ahead at full speed.”
Martin Siegert, Professor at the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: “Pinpointing the perfect spot from which to access the sub-glacial lake helps us to find out all we can about this interesting and pristine environment, without the risk of contaminating it.”
Figure 3. Artist view of Europa, which is a moon of Jupiter.
It is believed to have an ocean under the ice, and at times there are geyser-like emissions of water. Send a spacecraft to orbit with the idea to send in a probe when we spot the water emissions as shown above. An interesting scientific paper was published in Nature Astronomy by a group of scientists from JP, headed by Tom Nordheim, PhD. The JPL scientists claim that even in areas exposed to the harshest radiation, you may not need to dig down more than 20 cm, or a little less than eight inches, into the icy surface to find evidence of life on Jupiter’s moon Europa. This could mean a real chance of detecting life in the water emissions that we have seen erupting into space on Europa.
Europa is one of Jupiter’s 79 moons, which is believed to contain an ocean underneath its icy surface. One way to look for life, believed by NASA and many scientists, is to follow the waste within our solar system and beyond. Jupiter gives off intense radiation and all the moons are exposed to some of it. The tidal lock moons maybe only expose the side facing Jupiter. Life could be protected in the ocean by the ice.
Future landers might just have to take a core sample deep enough to find the amino acids and confirm that Europa is ripe for life. In areas outside the harshest parts of the radiation, the amino acids might be just centimeters under the surface.
Figure 4. Europa’s inner ocean may be capable of supporting simple lifeforms. A proposed lander may go and look for them in the 2030s. Jupiter’s ocean-harboring moon Europa, as seen by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
If we want to find alien life in our solar system, Jupiter’s icy moon Europa is one of the best places to look for it. And scientists may get a chance to do just that in the coming decades. A new NASA report outlines the goals for a mission that could land on the icy moon as soon as the 2031.
While the lander mission isn’t officially on the books yet, Congress wants it to happen. The new report is preliminary, meaning the goals and instruments may be subject to change. But if all goes according to plan, the mission’s primary goal would be to search for evidence of life on this frigid world.
That’s a bold move. NASA’s missions tend to look for “evidence of habitability,” or the potential of a place to support life. That’s because the last time the agency tried to look directly for alien life, it didn’t end well.
Life on Mars?
The Viking landers searched for life on Mars in the 1970s, and sent back results that are still being debated to this day. One instrument found a potential sign of life, while the other two instruments failed to find organics—and without organics, life as we know it would be impossible. A 20-year hiatus in Mars exploration followed those disappointing results.
Artist’s illustration of the proposed Europa lander. The mission is still in the preliminary planning stages, and subject to change.
More recently, scientists learned that perchlorate compounds in the Martian soil could have broken down any organic molecules on its surface—so Viking may have actually detected organics.
While most scientists still think there’s a low chance that the red planet supports life, the Viking brouhaha provides important lessons for astrobiologists.
“What Viking taught is us that you don’t just jump in and look for life,” says Curt Niebur, program scientist on the Europa lander mission, as well as the Europa Clipper, which will fly by the frozen moon in the 2020s. “You need a general understanding of the environment in which you’re looking, because it can complicate things.”
Life on Europa?
Below its shell of ice, Europa contains a vast inner ocean that’s thought to be in contact with its seafloor, potentially infusing the water with the energy and nutrients needed to support life. If there’s life in this deep, dark ocean, it may resemble the microbes that squirm around Earth’s seafloor and in subglacial lakes. But Europa’s surface is blasted by radiation, which can break down organic materials.
Europa cross section
Plumes and other geological processes may carry the ocean’s contents up to the surface, where a lander could reach them. Some of the experiments will provide a straightforward answer to the question of whether or not Europa’s ocean harbors life.
The meaning of life
“Since Viking, we’ve better parsed the question of what it means to look for life,” Niebur says, but he thinks there’s still work to be done. The scientific community still can’t agree on a succinct definition for life, as the report notes, and in fact finding life beyond Earth would help to refine that definition. In the meantime, this is one of the big challenges the mission faces.
This close-up of Europa, taken by the Galileo spacecraft in 1997, has been color-enhanced to reveal surface features. Blue-white terrain shows relatively pure water ice; reddish stripes may contain salts from an ocean, and hence would be a good target location for a lander.
Figure 5. Enceladus is a moon of Saturn that has ice and an ocean and could be a place to look for life.
Voyager 2 view of Enceladus in 1981: Samarkand Sulci vertical grooves (lower center); Ali Baba and Aladdin craters (upper left)
Enceladus Life Finder (ELF) is a proposed astrobiology mission concept for a NASA spacecraft intended to assess the habitability of the internal aquatic ocean of Enceladus, which is Saturn’s sixth-largest moon and seemingly similar in chemical makeup to comets. The spaceprobe would orbit Saturn and fly through Enceladus’s geyser-like plumes multiple times. It would be powered by energy supplied from solar panels on the spacecraft.
Figure 6. These geysers are seen near the south pole of Enceladus, a moon of Saturn.
The Enceladus Life Finder mission was first proposed in 2015 for Discovery Mission 13 funding, and then it was proposed in May 2017 to NASA’s New Frontiers program Mission 4, but it was not selected.
If selected at another future opportunity, the ELF mission would search for biosignature and biomolecules in the geysers of Enceladus. The south polar jets loft water, salts and organic molecules dozens of miles over the moon’s surface from an underground regional ocean. The hypothesis is that the water is warmed by thermal vents similar to features found deep in Earth’s oceans. ELF’s instruments would measure amino acids — the building blocks of proteins — analyze fatty acids, and determine whether methane (CH4) found in the plumes could have been produced by living organisms.
In 2008, the Cassini orbiter was flown through a plume and analyzed the material with its neutral mass spectrometer. The orbiter detected simple organics, including methane (CH4), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2) nitrogen, and complex organic compounds. Cassini also detected sodium and potassium at a concentration implying a salty liquid ocean. However, Cassini does not have the equipment with the sensitivity required for direct analyses.
Composite map of Enceladus’s south polar region showing cracks dubbed ‘tiger stripes’ where the geysers are located.
The Enceladus Life Finder (ELF) mission would pursue the implications of Cassini orbiter’s 2005 discoveries of active jetting from, and existence of an ocean within, Enceladus. The mission concept would have the ELF orbiter fly 8 to 10 times over a period of 3 years through plumes of water launched above the south pole of Enceladus. The geysers could provide easy access for sampling the moon’s subsurface ocean, and if there is microbial life in it, ice particles from the sea could contain the evidence astrobiologists need to identify them. The Principal Investigator is Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
The goals of the mission are derived directly from the most recent decadal survey: first, to determine primordial sources of organics and the sites of organic synthesis today; and second, to determine if there are current habitats in Enceladus where the conditions for life could exist today, and if life exists there now.
Mark Kingston Levin PhD author of 30th Century series book 2 30th Century: Revived, which was release on Amazon April 29, 2018.
Dr. Levin won the IRWIN for the Best Science Fiction Book of 2017 for the first book in the series, 30th Century: Escape. To read the first three chapters, see www.markkingstonlevin.com.
For questions and comments write to Dr. Levin firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Levin was born and grew up in Vermont with many winters spent in Florida as a child. As a teenager he wrote poetry, served as a lifeguard and played football. He currently enjoys sailing, exploring underwater caves, snorkeling, writing science fiction and other pursuits. After working on the Apollo and Mars projects, he returned to school to study under Nobel Laureate Paul Dirac, obtaining his PhD in 2.5 years. Dr. Levin founded two companies and served the science policy apparatus in President Ford’s administration. He has been published over 44 times in scientific literature and was awarded over 32 US patents. The science fiction writer is now emerging with his first work, a trilogy titled 30th Century.
The first award-winning book, 30th Century: Escape, is currently available on Amazon both in its original erotic form BUY HERE and the new, toned-down General Audience Edition in both Kindle and in full-color print BUY PRINT HERE. Book two in the series, 30th Century: Revived, is available HERE in both e-book and print. Look for book 3 in the series, 30th Century: Contact, by early 2019!
NEW: Your opportunity to be part of the process! If you sign up to be a Beta Reader, I will email you an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of Book 3, 30th Century: Contact, in either PDF or Kindle. You read and tell me how you would make it stronger by sending an email to Dr. Levin email@example.com