Determining where alien life exists: Very similar to Earth?

Some celestial bodies in the solar system may have given birth to life using a system similar to what Trat Dat possesses, even more powerful.

A team of researchers created computer models of hydrothermal circulation based on conditions on Earth and several other ocean-bearing bodies in the solar system, finding that in some places the door to life is even wider open than on the Earth's ocean floor.

Enceladus' structure could help the celestial body support life - Graphic image: NASA

Enceladus' structure could help the celestial body support life - Graphic image: NASA

According to Sci-News, hydrothermal systems were discovered on the Earth's seafloor in the 1970s, when scientists observed fluids being released carrying heat, particles, and chemicals in some areas.

Over the years, these hydrothermal systems have been shown to have fueled the reactions that gave rise to early life on Earth, as well as provided the conditions that nurtured that life.

In recent years, a number of alien worlds have also revealed traces of underground oceans with hydrothermal systems.

The most obvious include Saturn's moon Enceladus and Jupiter's Europa.

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Other Jupiter moons Ganymede, Calisto, Saturn's moon Titan and even the dwarf planet Pluto are also believed to have such structures.

Astrobiologists hope that if there are hydrothermal systems, those worlds would also be capable of generating and sustaining life.

In the new study, Professor Andrew Fisher and colleagues from the University of California at Santa Cruz used a complex computer model based on hydrothermal circulation that occurs on Earth.

After varying variables such as gravity, heat, rock properties and fluid circulation depth, they found that hydrothermal vents can be sustained under a variety of conditions.

When they applied the conditions of the above alien worlds to the model, they were shocked.

The results published in the scientific journal Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets show that if a world has weaker gravity that reduces buoyancy, fluids do not become light when heated and this reduces flow speeds running.

This could increase the temperature in the circulating fluid, thus allowing more vigorous chemical reactions, perhaps including those that sustain life.

In other words, the hydrothermal systems that leading space agencies including NASA believe exist on Europa or Enceladus are even more susceptible to life than similar systems in Hawaii or Antarctica.

This mechanism also shows that even though there are not many conditions to maintain heat as well as Earth, the above celestial bodies possess another way for the underground ocean to warm for a long time.

The discovery has significantly boosted hopes for NASA's planned alien life-hunting missions, including the Europa Clipper scheduled to launch later this year, and a robotic snake being built for Enceladus. 

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