Water is the key to life. We live on a watery world, surrounded by watery planets and yet, for a long time, we believed that we were alone. Many still do.
You have to wonder why, since water seems to be everywhere in our galaxy.
The moons around Jupiter and Saturn have ice under the surface and, as NASA planetary scientist Lynnae Quick says, “plumes of water erupt from Europa and Enceladus, so we can tell that these bodies have subsurface oceans beneath their ice shells, and they have energy that drives the plumes, which are two requirements for life as we know it.”
There have been other discoveries that show giant lakes on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, and NASA is now pretty sure that there is – or at least was – water on Mars, our next stop.
The building blocks of life are close by and scientists now believe that Pluto, long known to be an orbiting block of ice, ‘once had a liquid ocean — and that it may still be there, under its frozen surface’.
Extrapolate this across the Milky Way, with its 400 billion stars and some scientists now believe that about seven percent of them have the same characteristics as our own sun. Those characteristics mean water, the key to life.
Add to the water findings, discoveries of life forms such as mitochondria – one of the building blocks of life – on one of Saturn’s moons (watch this, but start at 1 minute 40 seconds) , and the story begins to turn on its head.
From a standpoint where we are alone it is now quite easy to begin to think we are living in a suburb of quite a busy galaxy.
Many scientists and many more science fiction fans have thought this for years. Some have even theorised that black holes have a role to play in proper space travel (rather than mucking about in our own backyard). The first theory dates back to 1969 when it was inconceivable that humans would even be able to visualise the technology needed. Now, we probably can. And we can also imagine that, because we are in the suburbs we are probably a lot younger than other civilisations and definitely behind in technology terms.
And the evidence is growing that life existed in our own solar system and we have been receiving ‘weird’ radio signals for a while now, from reasonably close by. And we should probably not get started on UFO sightings, both from the US navy and many, many civilians.
Water is the key of life and water seems to be ubiquitous throughout our galaxy and the Universe.
Perhaps we should prepare ourselves for some close encounters.
Meanwhile, here is what Cassini saw on Saturn: