Published: June 5, 2016

“Life will find a way” is one of the common sayings in the world. As people witness plants grow through their pavement to reach the light, animals live in the harshness of Siberia, or birds adapt to better live in their environment, we must wonder if life exists past our tiny sphere in the universe. How well do we know the solar system that we live in?

Astronomers and scientists have searched for an answer to this question, and they have theorized that several heavenly bodies could support life; the closest opportunity is Mars. Satellites have taken pictures of rock and ground formations that look exactly like gullies here on Earth. More importantly, scientists using instruments aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have found possible liquid water. They have found dark streaks inside some of the craters that contain hydrated salts. Since these salts can lower the freezing temperature of the ice, dark streaks can be seen up to 300 feet long in the warmer times of the year, but completely gone in the colder times. Liquid water has been the focus of most of the studies on the Red Planet, because water is essential to hosting life. However amazing the finding of water can be though, there is little hope for life on Mars. As the planet resides a half an AU extra from the Earth, its core has cooled faster. With a diminished liquid metal, outer core, Mars cannot generate a magnetic field as great as Earth’s. Our planet’s liquid core, in combination with its high rotation speed, allows for convection currents to circulate, thus creating electric currents that make up the field. This field is what blocks many of the charged particles and radiation of the sun from hitting Earth. Other bodies, though, might have a greater chance of supporting life today.

The moon of Saturn, Enceladus, and the moon of Jupiter, Europa, may be hiding a secret under their icy shells. Tidal heating is a term used to describe one of the ways a planet can be heated. Take Europa for example. It orbits Jupiter in an elongated oval due to the three other Galilean moons influencing its orbit. As the moon orbits, the gravitational force of Jupiter on it changes as well. This slightly effects the moon’s tidal bulging, thus stretching and heating it. This tidal heating underneath the icy protection of their crusts, could allow global oceans to exist. With an abundance of water to support life, organisms could live off the chemicals and heat at the bottom. Much like the bacteria that live in Yellowstone’s hot pools off the heat and calcium in the rocks, life could exist on these distant moons. From the water geysers that have erupted from Enceladus’s surface, to the liquid that spews from Europa’s cracked surface, the universe could be throwing us hints. Until better instruments such as the European Extremely Large Telescope are built, we can only wonder about what the universe has in store.