Exoplanet Moons May Host Alien Life

JonB

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Sep 16, 2012
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Exoplanet Moons May Host Alien Life



The moons of gas giants orbiting other stars may fall within the habitable zone for human life.

Most exoplanet study so far has focused on solid worlds, those worlds most earth like that orbit their stars in the habitable zone. Two scientists, Rory Barnes and Rene Heller, recently released a statement saying that it's very possible - likely even - that the uninhabitable gas giants which orbit other stars may host habitable moons. The gas giants themselves may not even have a surface or be composed of breathable material, though they orbit in the habitable zone where liquid water can form, but the moons orbiting them could have life or be suitable for people. "There is a habitable zone for exomoons, it's just a little different than the habitable zone for exoplanets," said Barnes. To consider the exact habitability of an exomoon, the scientists observed both that many moons are tidally locked and that most moons have two sources of light which are subject to dramatic changes. Moons which orbit too close to their planet would experience a runaway greenhouse effect, boiling off any liquid surface water.

"An observer standing on the surface of such an exomoon would experience day and night in a totally different way than we do on Earth," said Heller, "For instance, stellar eclipses could lead to sudden total darkness at noon." Tidally locked exomoons, like Earth's own moon, would also have one hemisphere which never faces the planet - keeping the habitable surface lower than earth's, since this side would never receive light reflecting from the planet below.

Currently, no habitable exomoons are known. It's likely that telescopes like NASA's Kepler could detect them as they traverse across their planet, causing noticeable patterns in the brightness detected over time. Barnes and Heller's findings will be in the January issue of the journal Astrobiology.

Source: Space.com [http://www.space.com/19213-alien-life-possible-on-exoplanet-moons.html]
Image: NASA [http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/717260main_pia11824-full.jpg]

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Froggy Slayer

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I swear to god, when we get there, and the inhabitants are FUCKING TEDDY BEARS, I am going to cry.
 

Smolderin

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Froggy Slayer said:
I swear to god, when we get there, and the inhabitants are FUCKING TEDDY BEARS, I am going to cry.
With laughter? Jubilation? Disbelief? Cause if it were me, I would be like, "Now I just need to teach one to speak english and me and him can go re-enact the movie Ted". I'll call my master piece...Dancing with Ewoks!
 

Albino Boo

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I would have thought that the gas giants Van Allen belts would have made life unlikely. The radiation would be intense, making life unlikely.
 

Soluncreed

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The only thing I've ever wondered is how the tides of those moons would work with such a gigantic planet affecting them.
 

tce11

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albino boo said:
I would have thought that the gas giants Van Allen belts would have made life unlikely. The radiation would be intense, making life unlikely.
If the moon was in between the inner and outer belt, in the "safe zone", it might actually provide some additional protection from stellar radiation though. Most moons don't have much of a magnetic field, so this might actually be helpful. However this would add an additional "Goldilocks Zone" requirement, so it would limit the candidates even more.
 

Anti-American Eagle

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Guys stop doing things the complex ways, all we have to do is go to Chiron...

I mean the only flaw in this plan is flying space leaches that'll lay eggs in our skulls while projecting images more horrifying than our worst nightmares into our brains. Or Pandorum could always happen on the way there that'd be fun.

Or we could always try just building a colony on mars... like I thought we would have gotten to work on by now.
 

cerebus23

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I thought we already believed that the more icy moons of these giants and the tidal forces created by their moons might heat up the interior of the planets and heat liquid oceans, there would also be volcanic activity
and as we know from our oceans all sorts of microbes and complex food chains evolve directly around deep volcanic fountains and the like.

I guess they are saying in certain situations you could get people habital worlds roaming around deep space gas giants if the local inner planets do not work out. but with the odds for the godilocks planets out there its got to be an exceeding rare happening, totally ignoring the fact that gas giants have so many moons because they have very active neighborhoods, metor showers in the local weather forecast would probably be frequent when living on a very large sattlite orbiting a gas giant. so any life that does happen to live there would probably be very hardy and not terribly advanced, being that you would have far more frequent major impacts, preventing the rather long grace period our planet gets being in the inner rim and having jupiter and saturn helping keep us safe from those rogue outer rim giants.

and whats our average about 300-600 million years? if that were 100 million or less your evolving life would not be terribly far along before the next species ending event occurs.
 

Thaluikhain

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Firstly, this isn't really news.

Secondly, the title really, really needs the world "theoretically" in it. Omitting something like that is a really crass way of getting people to click on the article. If you don't think people are going to be interested in the actual content of your article, an exciting and misleading title isn't the way to deal with this.
 

Broderick

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Froggy Slayer said:
I swear to god, when we get there, and the inhabitants are FUCKING TEDDY BEARS, I am going to cry.
If I saw anyone fucking teddy bears I think I would cry. Those poor poor teddy bears.

At any rate...cool, but I thought this was old news. eh well, I am still excited about the mars colonization project. Planet terraforming is a go!
 

Antari

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What is there to be worried about? We're the most dangerous species this planet has ever known. Whatever we find is dead meat. I just hope its tasty.
 

Cecilo

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Antari said:
What is there to be worried about? We're the most dangerous species this planet has ever known. Whatever we find is dead meat. I just hope its tasty.
Unless we find something akin to a Death-World. Where every animal is Carnivorous, Every plant poisonous, and the world itself just hates everything on it's surface and wants it dead.
 

Fireprufe15

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Anti-American Eagle said:
Guys stop doing things the complex ways, all we have to do is go to Chiron...

I mean the only flaw in this plan is flying space leaches that'll lay eggs in our skulls while projecting images more horrifying than our worst nightmares into our brains. Or Pandorum could always happen on the way there that'd be fun.

Or we could always try just building a colony on mars... like I thought we would have gotten to work on by now.
Oh you don't know? I'll just leave this here then...
mars-one.com
 

Quaxar

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Cecilo said:
Antari said:
What is there to be worried about? We're the most dangerous species this planet has ever known. Whatever we find is dead meat. I just hope its tasty.
Unless we find something akin to a Death-World. Where every animal is Carnivorous, Every plant poisonous, and the world itself just hates everything on it's surface and wants it dead.
Then we'll just send the Australians!
 

Legion

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Why is it taken as a given that all life-forms require similar habitats and environments to us? Perhaps life on other planets evolved with completely different physical needs from us. It's not like we have found any other inhabited planets to test the idea that all life requires X, Y and Z in order to survive.
 

Th37thTrump3t

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albino boo said:
I would have thought that the gas giants Van Allen belts would have made life unlikely. The radiation would be intense, making life unlikely.
If the atmosphere were comprised of the right stuff to shield from the radiation, such as a thick ionosphere and ozone layer, life would have a chance to start.
 

Beryl77

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Legion said:
Why is it taken as a given that all life-forms require similar habitats and environments to us? Perhaps life on other planets evolved with completely different physical needs from us. It's not like we have found any other inhabited planets to test the idea that all life requires X, Y and Z in order to survive.
It's not taken as a given but that's all we know. Like you said, our knowledge about life on other planets is very limited and that's exactly why we search for planets that are similar to earth. Otherwise we'd have to look at literally every, single planet out there and there are billions and billions of them. So for now, scientists search for things that we know worked successfully at least once.
 

Wyes

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This really isn't news. We've been looking at the moons of Jupiter and Saturn for a while now and considering whether or not they could be hoste to life - why should the moons orbiting exoplanets be any different?
 

Moonlight Butterfly

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Shouldn't we be starting on the gas giant moons nearest to us first like Europa.

Wyes said:
This really isn't news. We've been looking at the moons of Jupiter and Saturn for a while now and considering whether or not they could be hoste to life - why should the moons orbiting exoplanets be any different?
Part of me want them to find life on Europa but then...Giant sea monsters :<
 

Wyes

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Moonlight Butterfly said:
Shouldn't we be starting on the gas giant moons nearest to us first like Europa.

Wyes said:
This really isn't news. We've been looking at the moons of Jupiter and Saturn for a while now and considering whether or not they could be hoste to life - why should the moons orbiting exoplanets be any different?
Part of me want them to find life on Europa but then...Giant sea monsters :<
Probably not enough free energy for giant sea monsters, probably only microbial sea life... but that'd still be awesome.
 

RedDeadFred

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thaluikhain said:
Firstly, this isn't really news.

Secondly, the title really, really needs the world "theoretically" in it. Omitting something like that is a really crass way of getting people to click on the article. If you don't think people are going to be interested in the actual content of your article, an exciting and misleading title isn't the way to deal with this.
Pretty much all of this.

I was genuinely excited by the title but was very disappointed when I saw the tiny article with information that's been known for a long time.
 

Remus

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Moonlight Butterfly said:
Shouldn't we be starting on the gas giant moons nearest to us first like Europa.

Wyes said:
This really isn't news. We've been looking at the moons of Jupiter and Saturn for a while now and considering whether or not they could be hoste to life - why should the moons orbiting exoplanets be any different?
Part of me want them to find life on Europa but then...Giant sea monsters :<
Beware of giant black monoliths. They don't respond well to visitors.
 

Albino Boo

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Th37thTrump3t said:
albino boo said:
I would have thought that the gas giants Van Allen belts would have made life unlikely. The radiation would be intense, making life unlikely.
If the atmosphere were comprised of the right stuff to shield from the radiation, such as a thick ionosphere and ozone layer, life would have a chance to start.
Ok the dosage from Earth's Van Allen's belts are around 2500 rem a year. Jupiter's Van Allen's belts are somewhere around 20000 times as strong giving an average exposure per year of 50000000 rem or roughly 1000 rem per minute. To put that figure into context the Hiroshima bomb gave the average exposure of 2500 rem so the atmosphere would have to adsorb the same radiation dose as a small nuke every 2.5 minutes. Now that figure is a little rough and ready and has no allowance for any absorption form Earth's own Van Allen belts. However from those figures its unlikely that any life outside the deep ocean bottoms could exist.
 

Wyes

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albino boo said:
Th37thTrump3t said:
albino boo said:
I would have thought that the gas giants Van Allen belts would have made life unlikely. The radiation would be intense, making life unlikely.
If the atmosphere were comprised of the right stuff to shield from the radiation, such as a thick ionosphere and ozone layer, life would have a chance to start.
Ok the dosage from Earth's Van Allen's belts are around 2500 rem a year. Jupiter's Van Allen's belts are somewhere around 20000 times as strong giving an average exposure per year of 50000000 rem or roughly 1000 rem per minute. To put that figure into context the Hiroshima bomb gave the average exposure of 2500 rem so the atmosphere would have to adsorb the same radiation dose as a small nuke every 2.5 minutes. Now that figure is a little rough and ready and has no allowance for any absorption form Earth's own Van Allen belts. However from those figures its unlikely that any life outside the deep ocean bottoms could exist.
Europa has thick ice shell, with potential liquid water oceans underneath. The ice would be more than sufficient to shield from the radiation.
 

Albino Boo

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Wyes said:
Europa has thick ice shell, with potential liquid water oceans underneath. The ice would be more than sufficient to shield from the radiation.
While being perfectly true, the article is about Earth like planets orbiting gas giants which in turn occupy obrits the same distance from the sun that Earth is. Europa is not relevant for the purposes of this discussion.
 

Farther than stars

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thaluikhain said:
Firstly, this isn't really news.

Secondly, the title really, really needs the world "theoretically" in it. Omitting something like that is a really crass way of getting people to click on the article. If you don't think people are going to be interested in the actual content of your article, an exciting and misleading title isn't the way to deal with this.
Well, either way it wasn't like they were saying that we've found signs of life already and you and I both know that. It's simply not feasible to extract life-indicating molecules from exoplanets anyway. Plus, there are millions of other factors going into forming carbon-based lifeforms, including carbon itself, of which we don't yet know whether other exoplanets planets have that substance. With that in mind, statistically speaking, we would have to find millions of other planets before we even found something resembling complex life (and again, only after space journeys of billions of years).
 

Farther than stars

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albino boo said:
Th37thTrump3t said:
albino boo said:
I would have thought that the gas giants Van Allen belts would have made life unlikely. The radiation would be intense, making life unlikely.
If the atmosphere were comprised of the right stuff to shield from the radiation, such as a thick ionosphere and ozone layer, life would have a chance to start.
Ok the dosage from Earth's Van Allen's belts are around 2500 rem a year. Jupiter's Van Allen's belts are somewhere around 20000 times as strong giving an average exposure per year of 50000000 rem or roughly 1000 rem per minute. To put that figure into context the Hiroshima bomb gave the average exposure of 2500 rem so the atmosphere would have to adsorb the same radiation dose as a small nuke every 2.5 minutes. Now that figure is a little rough and ready and has no allowance for any absorption form Earth's own Van Allen belts. However from those figures its unlikely that any life outside the deep ocean bottoms could exist.
But then given the weak anthropic principle, it's highly unlikely that we exist. Personally I think the endeavor to find complex carbon life similar to that of a mamal is fruitless. But after some of the revelations that science has brought to our understanding of reality, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there is a life form out there which can withstand heavy doses of radiation. And considering the point that we're at now, we might as well look in every place we can.
 

Strazdas

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Soluncreed said:
The only thing I've ever wondered is how the tides of those moons would work with such a gigantic planet affecting them.
they wouldnt. the rise and fall of our tides are created by our moons orbiting and while not unique, is not necessary for water life. (save for some species). there can be a constant tide in one side of the satellite easily.

There is only one moon. that which orbits the earth. all other orbiting bodies are satellites, in this case natural satellites.

Ok the dosage from Earth's Van Allen's belts are around 2500 rem a year. Jupiter's Van Allen's belts are somewhere around 20000 times as strong giving an average exposure per year of 50000000 rem or roughly 1000 rem per minute. To put that figure into context the Hiroshima bomb gave the average exposure of 2500 rem so the atmosphere would have to adsorb the same radiation dose as a small nuke every 2.5 minutes. Now that figure is a little rough and ready and has no allowance for any absorption form Earth's own Van Allen belts. However from those figures its unlikely that any life outside the deep ocean bottoms could exist.
and here we do the mistake, once again, thinking that alien life form has to be in any way similar to eatrths life form. the Van Allen's belt radiation may be as essential part of its ecosystem as suns lift is to ours. it may be pure power for thier bodies for all we know. thats the thing, we dont really know or even can imagone the different forms of life that could exist. we coudl land there, see a rock and think bah its empty, but in reality there may be a very very slow (comapred to what? us? really?) lifeform in there. its just not made out of sacks of meat and blood. The distance from the star isnt even a factor. its a factor for OUR life form. there could very well be a life form whos natural state is, say, -30C and thus would find it "hot" on mars from time to time. (i dont actually know how cold mars is, forgive me). we judge everything by OUR standarts and that is a mistake.