An artist’s conception of what life could look like on the surface of a distant planet. Image credit: NASA
In the last decade, we have discovered thousands of planets outside our solar system and have learned that rocky, temperate worlds are numerous in our galaxy. The next step will involve asking even bigger questions. Could some of these planets host life? And if so, will we be able to recognize life elsewhere if we see it?
A group of leading researchers in astronomy, biology and geology has come together under NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, or NExSS, to take stock of our knowledge in the search for life on distant planets and to lay the groundwork for moving the related sciences forward.
“We’re moving from theorising about life elsewhere in our galaxy to a robust science that will eventually give us the answer we seek to that profound question: Are we alone?” says Martin Still, an exoplanet scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington.
In a set of five review papers published last week in the scientific journal Astrobiology, NExSS scientists took an inventory of the most promising signs of life, called biosignatures. The paper authors include four scientists from NASA’s ...