Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Exotic Life Beyond Life? Looking For Life As We Don't Know It

Date:
September 21, 2009
Source:
Europlanet Media Centre
Summary:
Scientists at a new interdisciplinary research institute in Austria are working to uncover how life might evolve with “exotic” biochemistry and solvents, such as sulphuric acid instead of water.

Artist's impression of exoplanets around other stars.
Credit: ESA/AOES Medialab

Scientists at a new interdisciplinary research institute in Austria are working to uncover how life might evolve with “exotic” biochemistry and solvents, such as sulphuric acid instead of water.

Their research will be presented at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam by Dr Johannes Leitner on Friday 18 September.

The University of Vienna established a research group for Alternative Solvents as a Basis for Life Supporting Zones in (Exo-)Planetary Systems in May 2009, under the leadership of Maria Firneis.

Traditionally, planets that might sustain life are looked for in the ‘habitable zone’, the region around a star in which Earth-like planets with carbon dioxide, water vapour and nitrogen atmospheres could maintain liquid water on their surfaces. Scientists have been looking for biomarkers produced by extraterrestrial life with metabolisms resembling the terrestrial ones, where water is used as a solvent and the building blocks of life, amino acids, are based on carbon and oxygen. However, these may not be the only conditions under which life could evolve.

“It is time to make a radical change in our present geocentric mindset for life as we know it on Earth,” said Dr Leitner. “Even though this is the only kind of life we know, it cannot be ruled out that life forms have evolved somewhere that neither rely on water nor on a carbon and oxygen based metabolism.”

One requirement for a life-supporting solvent is that it remains liquid over a large temperature range. Water is liquid between 0C and 100C, but other solvents exist which are liquid over more than 200 C. Such a solvent would allow an ocean on a planet closer to the central star. The reverse scenario is also possible – a liquid ocean of ammonia could exist much further from a star. Furthermore, sulphuric acid can be found within the cloud layers of Venus and we now know that lakes of methane/ethane cover parts of the surface of the Saturnian satellite Titan.

Consequently, the discussion on potential life and the best strategies for its detection is ongoing and not only limited to exoplanets and habitable zones. The newly established research group at the University of Vienna, together with international collaborators, will investigate the properties of a range of solvents other than water, including their abundance in space, thermal and biochemical characteristics as well as their ability to support the origin and evolution of life supporting metabolisms.

“Even though most exoplanets we have discovered so far around stars are probably gas planets, it is a matter of time until smaller, Earth-size exoplanets are discovered,” said Dr Leitner.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Europlanet Media Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Europlanet Media Centre. "Exotic Life Beyond Life? Looking For Life As We Don't Know It." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090918101720.htm>.
Europlanet Media Centre. (2009, September 21). Exotic Life Beyond Life? Looking For Life As We Don't Know It. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090918101720.htm
Europlanet Media Centre. "Exotic Life Beyond Life? Looking For Life As We Don't Know It." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090918101720.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

NASA (Oct. 17, 2014) Power spacewalk, MAVEN’s “First Light”, Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) The smallest of Saturn's main moons, Mimas, wobbles as it orbits. Research reveals it might be due to a global ocean underneath its icy surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins