The Development of Astrobiology as a Science

One of the unsolved mysteries which is very difficult to solve is the origin of the universe. Astrobiology is the study of this mystery and hopefully we will be able to solve it. Under astrobiology we search for living organisms around the universe other than Earth. Astrobiology makes use of almost all branches of science to find living organisms beyond Earth.

In astrobiology or exobiology research is conducted into the possible presence of life on planets other than Earth. It studies the origin of life in the universe, it seeks answers to questions like " where does life come from? " and " how to develop basic building blocks of an organism ?". The American astronomer Carl Sagan was one of the first founders of astrobiology.

Astrobiology is a field that emerged at the interface of various disciplines, including astronomy and biology but also chemistry and physics. Astrobiology is sometimes perceived asspeculative biological science, since the existence of life beyond our planet to date not proven. Astrobiologists research on, among other things, the physical conditions under which life can emerge and develop. Furthermore, this field examines the appearance of life in these conditions and the appearance of what life could possibly be. Using computer simulations on an artificial planet, astrobiologists experiment with the conditions with which life could arise. Experimentally , one can use satellites (indirect analysis) and robots with analytical equipment (if a landing on the object is possible). Another method is indirectly by means of celestial objects, by studying the composition of the object via reflected light on the object. Most planets have extreme conditions for life to exist. Astrobiologists also examine why people exist on Earth especially where living conditions are extreme at places.

Basic conditions for life to exist:

The following terms are generally accepted conditions which are necessary for life on a planet to develop:

1. The presence of the following elements on the planet: liquid water , nitrogen , carbon (or silicon ).
2. Stability of the orbit of the planet ( so that life has time to develop).
3. Stability of the star around which the planet rotates.

Of course, these conditions are only assumptions, especially from research that shows the boundaries of life here on Earth. The existence of extraterrestrial life is after all not excluded, but remains highly speculative.

In 2010, at Mono Lake in California, a bacteria was found that had poisonous arsenic and thus arsenic replaced phosphorus as one of the building blocks [1] of life. Also in the DNA of the bacteria, arsenic was detected. This development was strongly opposed and condemned by the scientific community stating that there was not enough proof that arsenic was a part of biomolecules. The NASA announced in response that this particular assessment changed the possibility of extraterrestrial life completely and it could thereby have major consequences for astrobiology.

Possibility of life in the solar system other than on Earth

The highest possibility for life to exist on Earth is on the planet Mars as has been potrayed in many sci-fi flicks, and also on the lesser known Europa, which incidentally is one of the moons of planet Jupiter. The Titan and Enceladus which also are moons are potential life support celestial objects.

Possibility of Life on Mars

It is possible that there was life on Mars, for there is water (albeit frozen) found on the planet. There may be more fossil evidence of life here on Mars. Several probes were granted to this planet, as the Viking spacecraft, the Mars Explorer, the lander Beagle 2 and Mars Exploration Rovers 1 and 2. The Phoenix Mars Lander had successfully found water on Mars.

Possibility of Life on Europa

It is possible that life in Europa, the moon of Jupiter, is because the it seems covered with an ocean, which on its surface is frozen. They have no idea of the thickness of the ice cover (which probably involves several kilometers ). Scientists are studying various methods to reach the ocean under the ice and use the Vostok More on the South Pole, which is a lake beneath the ice, as a field of experience, because it is assumed that the circumstances match those in Europa.

Possibility of Life on Titan

Although the conditions on Titan are very different than those on Earth, it also is a possible candidate for life. There are massive amounts of carbon present on Titan, including energy in the form of volcanism and fluid, and also liquid surface in the form of methane and ammonia. Inspection by the Cassini spacecraft, however, yielded no positive results and so far no sign of life was observed.

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