Does Life Exist Elsewhere In The Universe?
The presence of water is absolutely vital to the existence of life no matter where it may lie in the universe. In searching for the best habitat to harbour life, the essential criteria could be viewed as a rocky planet with a liquid surface ocean – plant and animal life living near the surface would need to utilise the sunlight. An atmosphere would also be necessary to prevent the freezing or evaporating of the ocean and it would offer protection from potentially lethal ultra violet light.
Tidal Heating is an important factor in ensuring water is kept warm in multiple-moon systems such as those orbiting Jupiter. Three of Jupiter’s moons – Europa, Ganymede and Callisto show indications of possible vast oceans beneath thick icy crusts. Tidal heating prevents the oceans from freezing and heated water bubbling up from the ocean bed provides energy for the beginnings of life’s processes.
Although largely an icy frozen world it could provide a suitable environment for life to form. Its surface is one of the brightest in the galaxy, and also one of the smoothest. Surface images show strong similarities to thawing pack-ice on Earth’s polar seas, and there is strong evidence suggesting the existence of a subsurface global ocean, sustained in liquid form as a result of tidal heating.
Saturn’s largest moon and 2nd largest in Solar System is composed of rock and water ice, and has a nitrogen-methane atmosphere with a reddish cloud layer above the surface. Liquid methane can produce the same effect as water on Earth in terms of cloud formation, rain and liquid pools and possibly even lakes and oceans.
Saturn’s moon and the shiniest in the solar system.
The part of the atmosphere over its south pole consisting of water vapour gives rise to the notion that below its icy crust could be a hidden ocean. The newly discovered surface geyser, “Cold Faithful,” jetting water ice and vapour out of the fissures backs this theory.
2001-2002 Mars Odyssey found evidence of water ice near the surface. Polar ice caps are underlayed by caps of water ice. 2008 Phoenix Lander confirmed the existence of Martian water in frozen soil. September 2008 snow was detected falling from Martian clouds. Whether any reaches the ground before evaporating remains to be seen.
(Related photos in album “Europa(Homeworld Of The Icewolf)And Beyond”)