Life is probably everywhere

I wrote down some predictions about life in the solar system, so I can measure my predictions against what our robot probes find in the future.

Midjourney: a low resolution grainy pixelated 64kb diagram showing all the different planets and moons in the solar system where life has evolved, very poor quality, misleading information

I have a hunch that life evolves everywhere the conditions exist for it to do so. The conditions are probably fairly broad, albeit within a similar range of temperature, pressure and chemical constraints to those found on early Earth.

When the conditions exist life evolves right away, in the same way that clouds or rocks form right away wthout requiring any special magic.

I therefore expect life to have evolved on Mars, probably Venus, in the subsurface oceans of moons of the gas giants, and perhaps on places like Titan too.

That life is could still be alive today; proving it exists could be difficult, but if it is there, planned robotic missions could return data (or samples) in the 2030s and 2040s that will, at least, hint at its existence.

We might have seen some of these hints already - for example, the contested detection of phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere, the unknown mechanism behind seasonal methane release on Mars, and the complex organic molecules found in Enceladus’ plumes.

When we are able to gather spectroscopic data from the atmospheres of terrestrial exoplanets, I think can expect to find potential biosignatures there too.

I’ve added a table below listing missions (planned and actual) and studies that could provide evidence that would support or undermine what I’ve written here, which I’ll update when results are available:

Mission or study Year Possible outcome Actual outcome
JCMT Venus observations 2022/3 Stronger confirmation of phosphine signal in Venus’ atmosphere
JWST exoplanet observations 2022+ Biosignatures in exoplanet atmospheres
Rocket Lab Venus probe 2023 Confirmation of phosphine and/or other biosignatures in Venus’ atmosphere
DAVINCI 2031 As above
Tianwen-3 Mars sample return 2031 Detection of complex chemistry of biological origin
NASA/ESA Mars sample return 2033 As above
Europa Clipper 2030 Detection of complex chemistry or other unusual features on Europa
JUICE 2031 Detection of complex chemistry as above or on other Jovian moons
Dragonfly 2034 Detection of complex chemistry of biological origin
Tianwen-4 2035 As per Europa Clipper / JUICE
Uranus Orbiter 2044? Possible detection of subsurface oceans and complex chemistry in water plumes
Enceladus lander 2050+? Detection of complex chemistry of biological origin
Human mars exploration ? Definitive confirmation of extinct or extant life forms

The year listed is the current planned year of orbital insertion at the target planet, but it may take years of in-situ study before results are available.

A few bonus predictions for fun:

Let’s check back in 10-20 years and see where we’re up to!

older: Departing Squarespace →

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