We are not alone in the universe. A couple of years ago, such an opinion would have seemed far-fetched; today, most scientists perceive the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence as a given.”
This is how Lambros D. Gallimahos, a high-ranking expert of the US Department of Defense, began his speech at the opening of the conference on military electronics in September 1965. Then he said that, according to the estimates of such an authoritative astronomer as Sir Bernard Lowell, our Galaxy has more than a million systems, including planets on which life in any form is likely to be possible.
Other galaxies in the Universe number in the billions, and this greatly increases the number of planetary systems – potential carriers of life and civilization.
As soon as astronomers got their hands on instruments that allow them to detect planets near distant stars, discoveries fell like a cornucopia. At first, scientists found only giant planets comparable in mass to Jupiter, but as they improved the technique, the size of the discovered planets became comparable to Earth. Among the 220 “extrasolar planets” already catalogued by astronomers, there are also those whose conditions allow the presence of an atmosphere and liquid water. Planets are found not only in yellow dwarfs – stars similar to the Sun, but also in stars of almost any type, including pulsars.
“Maybe half of the stars in our Galaxy have planets,” said Steven Beck-witz of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg. According to the calculations of astronomer Soul, only in our Galaxy there are 600-700 million stars with planets suitable for human life without protective devices.
But are there any life on extrasolar planets, or do they revolve around stars sterile, like sealed flasks? The discovery of fossilized organisms in meteorites such as “carbonaceous chondrites” (fragments of the planet Phaeton) closes the question once and for all. And the dispute about life on Mars has not yet been removed from the agenda.
Tiny magnetic particles found in one of the Martian meteorites were exactly the same as particles formed during the vital activity of some terrestrial bacteria. Carbon formations found in cracks inside the Martian meteorite No. 5448, found in 1911 in the Egyptian desert, turned out to be identical to those found when studying volcanic rocks from the ocean floor. Isotopic analysis has shown that these are most likely traces of the vital activity of the bacteria of the Red Planet.
Methane contained in the atmosphere of Mars could have appeared there either as a result of volcanic activity or due to the activity of microbes. Despite the fact that no active volcanoes have been found on Mars and the maximum concentration of methane falls on seismically inactive areas (seas), it remains only to assume that there is life on the planet. Methane is destroyed, the life of its molecules is on average 300 years, so its constant presence in the atmosphere can be explained only if we assume the presence of some factor that releases methane. Microorganisms are the most likely explanation. Even cautious Russian scientists say that the chances of finding life on Mars exceed 70%!
Perhaps life on Mars has already been found. Biologist Joseph Miller from the University of Southern California, working for NASA, discovered old records of the course of biological experiments on board the landing modules of the Viking probes. In his opinion, the cyclicity of carbon release from the samples taken by the probes, which exactly coincides with the duration of the Martian day (24.66 hours), suggests that the samples contained microorganisms. When the sample was heated to 160 ° C, the gas release dropped sharply. And now it’s clear why – strong heating simply killed life in a sample of Martian soil.
If there are only two planets in the Solar System on which life exists or has ever existed, it becomes clear that this is a common phenomenon. Complex organic molecules were found in the interstellar medium among the gas-dust clouds. It is difficult to overestimate their importance: in space conditions, due to some processes, the synthesis of organic molecules of the “bricks” of life is underway.