Feeds

We're searching for life, Jim, but not as we know it

Boffins less fussy about what's a space alien

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Some of the world's top space boffins have proposed a new way to figure out the odds of finding life - but not as we know it - on another planet.

The brainy bunch, composed of scientists from NASA, SETI, the German Aerospace Centre and four universities, suggested that so far our search for life in the universe has concentrated too much on finding planets similar to our home world. While it is logical to try to find another Earth, because it's likely that it will be populated in some way, the researchers said we should look for other conditions that might support life.

"The first question is whether Earth-like conditions can be found on other worlds, since we know empirically that those conditions could harbour life," Dr Dirk Schulze-Makuch, astrobiologist at Washington State University, said. "The second question is whether conditions exist on exoplanets that suggest the possibility of other forms of life, whether known to us or not."

In a paper to be published in next months's Astrobiology, the team said that the search of planets outside our solar system should first use an Earth Similarity Index and then look at a Planetary Habitability Index "for describing a variety of chemical and physical parameters that are theoretically conducive to life in more extreme conditions".

"Habitability in a wider sense is not necessarily restricted to water as a solvent or to a planet circling a star," the paper's authors write.

"For example, the hydrocarbon lakes on Titan could host a different form of life. Analog studies in hydrocarbon environments on Earth, in fact, clearly indicate that these environments are habitable in principle. Orphan planets wandering free of any central star could likewise conceivably feature conditions suitable for some form of life."

The boffins admit that this is something a bit like imagining all possible sorts of life forms and searching for them, or to put it in more scientific wording "an intrinsically more speculative endeavour". However, they argue that not doing it risks overlooking potentially habitable worlds. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.