Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in The Universe: Extraterrestrial life AND life on Earth. The term exobiology is similar but more SPECIFICALLY covers the search for life beyond Earth, and the effects of extraterrestrial environments on living things.
In this endeavour, scientists from a wide variety of disciplines are involved, such as astronomy, planetary research, organic chemistry, palaeontology and the various subdisciplines of biology including microbial ecology and molecular biology. Space technology plays an important part by offering the opportunity for exploring our solar system, for collecting extraterrestrial samples, and for utilizing the peculiar environment of space as a tool.
This evolutionary approach towards understanding the phenomenon of life in the context of cosmic evolution may eventually contribute to a better understanding of the processes regulating the interactions of life with its environment on Earth.
Exobiological activities include
- comparison of the overall pattern of chemical evolution of potential precursors of life, in the interstellar medium, and on the planets and small bodies of our solar system
- tracing the history of life on Earth back to its roots
- deciphering the environments of the planets in our solar system and of their satellites, throughout their history, with regard to their habitability
- testing the impact of space environment on survivability of resistant life forms
- searching for other planetary systems in our Galaxy and for signals of extraterrestrial civilizations
We Have Been Looking…
The SETI Institute
The probably best known group searching for extraterrestrial life, the SETI Institute, is a not-for-profit research organization whose mission is to explore, understand, and explain the origin and nature of life in the universe, and to apply the knowledge gained to inspire and guide present and future generations.
The Arecibo Message
The Arecibo message is a 1974 interstellar radio message carrying basic information about humanity and Earth sent to globular star cluster M13 in the hope that extraterrestrial intelligence might receive and decipher it.
Since it will take nearly 25,000 years for the message to reach its intended destination (and an additional 25,000 years for any reply), the Arecibo message is viewed as a demonstration of human technological achievement, rather than a real attempt to enter into a conversation with extraterrestrials.
The Golden Records
The records contain sounds and images to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth and are intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or for future humans, who may find them.
Those records are considered as a sort of a time capsule. Although neither Voyager spacecraft is heading toward any particular star, Voyager 1 will pass within 1.6 light-years distance of the star Gliese 445, currently in the constellation Camelopardalis, in about 40,000 years.
…Have ‘They’ Been Looking Too?
Since we have been reaching out it seems quite obvious that – provided intelligent life forms do exist out there – Aliens have done so too and got successful in finding us?
If so, has there been any DNA (trans-)forming somewhen during the human evolution process and/or are there even alien-human hybrids (think of the Humanzee or the sheep Dolly for that matter) walking among us?
In that case, the human gene must be the dominant gene as they may just want to have an easier time fitting in with us or may interfere with human beings’ faith currently or later on down the road.
A Look Beyond
“I believe alien life is quite common in the universe, although intelligent life is less so. Some say it has yet to appear on planet Earth.”
“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.”
“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
– Stephen Hawking