Astrobiology

Hello, readers! Been away from writing for a little while, but the recent find that Saturn’s moon Enceladus might be “hospitable to life” is not only exciting in its own right, but has made me think back to what I know about the science of astrobiology.

Most science fiction shows feature aliens that are large, complex life forms, like xenomorphs or Vulcans. However, the reality is that most of the life on other planets is likely to consist of single-celled or filamentous organisms, analogous to bacterial forms of life in extreme environments on Earth. The kind of life to be found on Enceladus is likely to consist of chemolithotrophic food webs consisting mostly of bacteria, nestled close to the hypothesized deep sea vents on that icy moon. Analogous food webs lie deep in Earth’s oceans, where “hot smoker” geothermal vents spew warmth and the minerals that power these food webs, which exist independently of light from the Sun. There are more complicated and large organisms deep below the surface of Earth’s oceans, like large tube worms and several forms of invertebrates, but most of the life around these geothermal vents consists of bacteria that can gain energy for living from transforming the minerals released by the vents. From what I recall, the food webs around these vents depend on the cyclical transformations of these minerals between their different forms, and it’s all conducted by bacteria. The tube worms, for example, have large digestive organs consisting of sacs of bacteria powered by minerals. It’s fascinating.

I may dig up new research on these vents and write a short story about what people may find on Enceladus once they send robots beneath its icy surface.

In other news, I am still about halfway through my SF novel Infinity, and I plan to work on it again starting tomorrow (today and much of last week I spent dealing with bipolar dreams, which come and go- they usually leave me with all sorts of ideas for stories, and this time around has been no exception).

Have a great day!