A New Viral Video Describes NASA’s Efforts To Find Out Are We Alone In The Universe?
In the video, which has been viewed almost 1.8 million times at the time of writing, NASA astrobiologist Heather Graham of the Goddard Space Flight Center explained what action the space agency is taking Look for the signs of extraterrestrial life.
The video The host is Australian YouTuber AstroKobi, aka Kobi Brown, who explains in the video that NASA’s astrobiology program is currently working on three fundamental questions: How does life begin and evolve? Is there life elsewhere in the universe? And how do we best search for life in the universe?
Graham says that in order to even consider these questions, scientists must first understand what life actually is. Brown explains that life is not just made up of creatures like humans, but can be made up of a number of completely different organisms.
Related: Life on Mars: Exploration and Evidence
“Wherever we go on this planet, we see life, at the bottom of the ocean, in the deepest sediments, locked in ice and on top of dry mountain peaks,” Graham said in the video. “We don’t really know how life started on this planet yet, and it’s really a difficult and tricky problem because Earth has looked completely different throughout its history.”
This means, she added, that “turning back the clock” on Earth means considering environments that are very foreign to us today, with the fossil record providing examples of organisms that were once best suited to those diverse environments . That means when NASA thinks about how life began, it needs to think about how every life could start.
“When we begin to look at life in this way, and realize that life is a magnificent dialogue that takes place with its environment, it becomes easier for us to imagine that there is a rich history on other planets as well, and it may be.” “There were also many planets.” during their lives,” Graham said. “More significantly, this means they may have been able to accommodate many different life forms as well.”
However, as Graham pointed out, the fact that water is as important to all life as we understand it is the energy from a star or some other source and environment that encourages chemistry unique to life narrows the search somewhat.
Small life forms would be a big deal
The main species of life NASA focuses on solar system are microscopic life forms or microorganisms. While the discovery of microbes on another world is, as is often assumed, a far cry from little green men crashing spaceships into backyards in rural America, it would be of enormous importance, Graham explains. And given the history of our own world, the hunt for microbes as a form of extraterrestrial life makes perfect sense.
“We must remember that most of our history has been microbial in nature. Microbes ruled our planet for about three billion years before larger organisms even appeared. If you think about Earth’s great history, it was a microworld for 70% of its existence,” explains Brown. “If we find a microbe, it means we’ve found a planetary chemistry that has discovered how to build life. Yes, we might not be able to talk to her, but at least we would know that we are not alone and that life isn’t “not a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
One of the most intense searches for microbial life is currently taking place Marswhere the robot rovers curiosity And Endurance explore regions where water was plentiful billions of years ago, in stark contrast to the barren and arid planet of today. There is hope that the rocks of these fossilized waterways of Mars may contain traces of ancient microbial life.
“A great example of a mission using chemical biosignatures is the Curiosity rover on Mars,” said Graham. “On this rover is an instrument called SAM [Sample Analysis at Mars], and it’s basically an entire chemistry lab crammed into something about the size of a large microwave oven. “Right now it’s picking up rocks on the Martian surface and pulling out organic molecules that we think could be possible chemical biosignatures.”
The astrobiologist also pointed out that scientists from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are working hard to develop such a model Mars Sample Return Mission which picks up tubes dropped onto the surface of Mars by Perseverance and brings them back to Earth for analysis.
And Mars isn’t the only place NASA is collecting samples.
“We’re all working flat out to prepare for the return of Bennu, the asteroid sample coming to us from OSIRIS-REx this September,” Graham said.
Understanding asteroid Taking samples is important because these space rocks are thought to have formed from the same material that formed the planets. Unlike samples from asteroids that break off and land on Earth meteoritesthe samples returned from missions like OSIRIS-REx is protected from the effects of entering earth atmosphere at high speed, offering a “pristine” view of the matter that formed our planet. This could also reveal potentially vital organic molecules, suggesting that these molecules may have arrived through impacts from space rocks as early as our planet’s infancy.
Some moons orbiting other planets in the solar system are also of particular interest to NASA in its ongoing search for life beyond Earth. like ocean worlds Enceladusthe sixth largest moon of SaturnAnd Europea moon of Jupiterare particularly tempting targets.
“An upcoming mission that I’m really looking forward to is this Europe clippers Start next year. When we get better pictures [of Europa] “We’ll have a better understanding of whether this is a geologically active world,” Graham said. “Previous missions indicate that there may be hydrothermal vents or vents in the seafloor at the bottom of the European oceans.”
She added that these vents could heat water and fuel life beneath Europa’s icy shell, an ecosystem that sunlight struggles to reach. “On Earth, we see the same hydrothermal vent systems on our own seabed as an oasis of life powered by chemical energy,” the astrobiologist continued.
Graham also emphasized the potential of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in search of signs of life outside the solar system. The large telescope can detect biosignatures around extrasolar planets or “exoplanets“This suggests that something in the atmosphere of these worlds orbiting other stars is consuming energy in that environment.
“We may not yet know how life began on this planet, but we have learned how diverse life is and how little it needs to grow over time,” Brown concludes. “We also got a glimpse of some of the tools we can use to discover it, and we found the possibility that life could have originated beyond Earth and be hidden somewhere in the universe that has yet to be discovered.” But my biggest takeaway is that today we…” Live in a world that is extraordinary and full of opportunity.
The curiosity image can be seen in all its glory Here, Users can switch between a plain and an annotated view of Mars.