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SGS Biology

Is there life out there…..?

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The BBC have recently reported on the latest planetary object that they say is likely to be supporting life. Whilst this all sounds very exciting is this getting us any closer to answering whether there is life out there in the universe?  I’ve briefly covered these some of the issues surrounding this before but from a different angle, looking at the nature of why we have not been contacted by life outside our planet:

The BBC article however specifically identifies with the issues surrounding the exact conditions necessary from a planet to support life: namely the ”Goldilocks Zone”.  This region has sufficient atmospheric pressure to maintain liquid water on its surface.  With the seemingly endless supply of galaxies out there and the notion that Earth is not an exceptional planet in terms of it’s mass or distance to the sun, many believe there must be other planets out there like ours to support life.  However, this is a very simplistic view and many features need to be in place for there to be life at all – let alone intelligent life.  These include:

  • the right distance from the nearest star and the right distance from the centre of the galaxy
  • a star of the right kind of mass
  • a planet of the right mass
  • oceans
  • a continuously stable orbit
  • a large enough nearby moon
  • plate tectonics
  • an evolutionary trigger for complex life
  • enough time since the big bang for evolution to have occurred

As can be seen this does mean there is a lot of people who are very sceptical, believing in a ‘Rare Earth hypothesis.  This is countered by the idea that we are not only finding new suitable planets all the time, but perhaps life on other planets can not only occur in the absence of oxygen, but perhaps without DNA also, using a completely different system of heredity.   So where do you stand with this great scientific question that no one knows the answer to…..yet!

About Mr Davis

Mr Davis is the Head of Biology at Sutton Grammar.

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