New Research Says Alien Life Might Be Dwelling on Moons, Not Exoplanets

Thursday, 05 July 2018 - 12:35PM
Astronomy
Astrobiology
Alien Life
Thursday, 05 July 2018 - 12:35PM
New Research Says Alien Life Might Be Dwelling on Moons, Not Exoplanets
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Image Credit: Pixabay
It's safe to say that astronomers and astrobiologists have spent thousands of hours trying to find the perfect exoplanet to harbor alien life: one with a stable tilt, the right conditions for water, and a thick enough atmosphere to block out cosmic radiation, all within a star's habitable zone. But it turns out that they may have been looking for life in all the wrong places—the best candidates for alien life may actually be the moons orbiting giant planets similar to Jupiter and Saturn.



According to Michelle Hill, the leader of a new study titled "Exploring Kepler Giant Planets in the Habitable Zone," widening our net to include moons reveals over a hundred new worlds to search for life. "So far, the search for habitable worlds has been focused primarily on finding Earth-like planets in the habitable zone of their star, but this is not the only type of world on which we might find habitable conditions," says Hill.

The crux is that although giant planets like Saturn aren't themselves very hospitable to life, their moons have proven to be some of the most promising candidates we have on record. Though Hill and her team admit that they don't know how many moons other giant planets will have, the fact that Saturn and Jupiter have over sixty moons each means that there are more chances for one of them to produce the right conditions for life. With this in mind, it might be a better idea to search for gas giants in the habitable zones of their respective stars, rather than small, rocky exoplanets that resemble Earth.

"Indeed, considering the expected number of these moons in the habitable zone of their star, it is quite possible that the first signs of life found outside the Solar System, if it exists, could actually be found on a moon rather than an Earth-like planet," says Hill. Considering the recent discoveries on Europa, Hill may be right. 
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