It’s safe to assume we have all seen some form of Sci-Fi movies or TV shows at some point, and we have seen a wide variety of crazy looking aliens. And while really interesting, like most forms of entertainment, everything is highly exaggerated. In actuality, the types of life we are most likely to discover will be simple single celled organisms much like early life on Earth. Being able to study and understand these organisms though is useful not only for the study of far out worlds but also applies to our own solar system.
Exobiology In Our Solar System
Due to the discovery of many planets outside of our solar system people tend to associate the prefix exo with far off distant worlds. Where exobiology is concerned this is not the case, exobiology includes alien life in our own solar system as well. There are a wide variety of habitats for alien life in our own neighborhood whether it be fossils on Mars or simple microbial life on Saturn’s moons Titan or Enceladus as well as Europa which orbits Jupiter. Each of these locations has a potential for simple life due to the presence of hydrocarbons as well as liquid water. And while single celled organisms may not seem as cool as intelligent alien life or weird looking six legged mammals the study of these creatures can still play an important role in understanding the many paths that evolution can take as well as helping to shed light on how life on Earth developed to its current state.
Exobiology Outside Our Solar System
The understanding of how alien life may function also plays a role in the search for life on planets and moons in newly discovered solar systems throughout our galaxy. Now of course these systems are far beyond our reach with current space flight technology but we are still able to make observations with our current space telescopes. In these cases exobiology is useful in a more indirect role, by studying light we can see from these distant worlds we can in some cases infer the content of their atmospheres. Different elements and molecules absorb different kinds of light and by identifying the different light we can tell whether a planets atmosphere contains molecules that are by products of organic processes. Although we may only be able to hypothesize about the reality of what is occurring on these distant worlds, each new observation adds to our knowledge and can help increase our understanding of the way the universe works.
While attempting to study alien life may seem unusual being able to understand the different ways life can work will become increasingly important as we move towards a state of technology that will increase our ability to make more direct observations of this life and as with all science the more knowledge you can attain the more accurate your understanding will be.