The relatively recent discovery of life deep under the Earth’s surface has led some scientists to speculate that extraterrestrial life may also live below the surfaces of other planets.
Sean McMahon, a PHD student at the University of Aberdeen and leader of a team researching this theory, believes that the scientific community should be considering more planets with liquid water beneath the surface to be potentially habitable by alien organisms. To this end, McMahon and his team created a computer model that estimates the temperature below the surface of a planet, given the body’s size and relative distance from the sun. The results were surprising.
The model demonstrates that the habitable zone of an Earth-like planet is actually three times larger than previously considered, if potential underground habitats (specifically the top 5KM) are included as a possibility.
Scientifically, this theory is very valid. There are many organisms that live below the Earth’s surface, the deepest point that life has been found under our surface was 5.3KM, but scientists believe that life could exist as far below as 10KM.
In 2011, South African miners discovered 2.4 Metre long nematodes living at a depth of 1.3KM. The so-called worms from hell are living proof that in the words of Jurassic Park’s Ian Malcolm life will find a way. Extremeophiles, organisms that survive in incredibly hostile environments, have been discovered in places as disparate as active volcanoes, deep under ground and, amazingly, below the seafloor.
Is it too crazy to assume that similar creatures exist on other planets as well?
In fact, it seems even crazier to think that nobody ever considered it before.
Dr. Norman Sleep, a geophysicist with Stanford University in the US, thinks this idea is viable. He uses Mars as just one tantalizing example “A planet like Mars was clement at the start and could have evolved photosynthesis before freezing at the surface” he told science magazine ‘Science Uncovered’.
The most exceptional thing about this theory is that NASA’s Curiosity Rover, which is currently surveying the surface of the Red Planet, could be in a position to find evidence of this.
However, it is important for scientists (and journalists!) not to get carried away by this idea. “We have only recently started to discover this type of life on Earth,” he told Science Uncovered.
What (if any) evidence can be collected to validate this amazing new theory remains to be seen.