Searching for Life in Our Solar System; The Search for Alien Life; Exclusive Online Issues; by Bruce M. Jakosky, sidebar by Richard Lipkin; 5 Page(s)
Since antiquity, human beings have imagined life spread far and wide in the universe. Only recently has science caught up, as we have come to understand the nature of life on Earth and the possibility that life exists elsewhere. Recent discoveries of planets orbiting other stars and of possible fossil evidence in Martian meteorites have gained considerable public acclaim. And the scientific case for life elsewhere has grown stronger during the past decade. There is now a sense that we are verging on the discovery of life on other planets.
To search for life in our solar system, we need to start at home. Because Earth is our only example of a planet endowed with life, we can use it to understand the conditions needed to spawn life elsewhere. As we define these conditions, though, we need to consider whether they are specific to life on Earth or general enough to apply anywhere.