Feeds

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

Boffins less fussy about what's a space alien

Seven Steps to Software Security

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. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile 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.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.