Space for Life?

From H. G. Wells' book "War of the Worlds" to Stephen Spielberg's film "ET", life in space has been a focus of many science fiction writers and directors.

How could there be life in space?

The same way that there is life on Earth!

Life needs certain conditions to develop on planets, these are:

  • Far enough from the host star to be cool enough for water not to boil, yet close enough to be warm enough for water not to freeze.
  • Carbon on the planet so that carbon-based molecules can form.
  • The presence of liquid water on the surface.

SETI pioneer, Dr. Bernard Oliver, standing in front of a radio telescope

How do we search for life?

In 1979 NASA set up their Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), involving key figures in the field such as Dr. Frank Drake and Dr. Bernard M. Oliver. SETI searches for intelligent life by listening out for radio signals from space. This would be the most likely way for an intelligent civilisation to try to communicate.

James Gooding, 2017

All image credits go to NASA (and respective centers/universities)