Feeds

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

Boffins less fussy about what's a space alien

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST
Speculation rife, but Orbital claims it's too early to tell
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.