Our species has reached far out into the nether-regions of this galaxy and so many others, but to stay in our own backyard for a moment, I have to wonder … we’ve sent satellites with intricate probes to map out tomography of planets and their moons, especially Saturn with my favorite, the Cassini-Huygens probe, which went to Titan – the most early earth-like moon of Saturn.
First look at Mars. by ESA and NASA discovered proof that liquid water once flowed in canali or canals, combined with mineral compounds, carbon-hydrogen gases, and other life-building substances. Yet no fossil remains of bacterial pads or microscopic animals have been found. I expected our Martian probes Spirit and Opportunity to bring back some kind of fossil showing the simple, amoeba or paramecium-like remains in the calcified rock, but there were none.
Back to Titan. This great moon is surrounded by orange-tinted gas clouds, but we’ve discovered through Cassini-Huygens that the carbon-hydrogen gases in the atmosphere combined with the evidence of liquid methane rivers, would lead us to find those fossil remains of the non-complex life that must’ve existed, in micro form. Then again, if the ingredients, the amino acids, the building blocks for life exist somewhere suitable, it appears it’s not wise to make a lateral jump of conclusion that life must’ve evolved there.
This incredible image of Titan shows two new features - linear images where water ice may have exuded to the surface, and you'll notice these dark channels of liquid methane, more like "springs" rather than rain. Titan has drainage channels and rocky boundaries, even a shoreline!
Which is my point. Life seems incredibly rare, we can’t even find evidence of its being in places we should’ve found it. What does this mean, what does this say about life itself? Look how it evolved here – a complete accident of a combination of elements coming together: non-nucleated cells, electricity from continual lightening slamming onto young earth, liquid water brought by both continual rain and bombarding comets, hit at just the “right” angle, and you have a nucleus which replicates over and over becoming the complex life after a few hundred millions years, onto what we now see 4.6 billion years later. We KNOW simple one-celled creatures existed for millions of year before becoming more complex. We see them perfectly intact in the oceans and places they lived, now all rock like the Grand Canyon.
All these ingredients are present on places like Titan, also Enceledus, Europa, moons with the most suitable ground for proto-life to evolve. Yet it hasn’t, or at least, we can’t find evidence of its existence, ever.
Why is life so rare? Whether simple-celled or the complexity of bacteria, or the evolution of marine life to land creatures, follow it all back in time and you find the same situation existing on post proto-earth that now exists on these satellites of other planets.
I have to wonder … really. This is an area I love staying up to date on, and the one thing all our global work has shown us about life is, we can’t find evidence of it anywhere but here. Perhaps technology isn’t evolving fast enough? No, I think it’s something more. ESA and NASA are as thorough as mankind can be – we can certainly find fossils on earth yet we haven’t on Mars, where life is very much thought to have existed on bacterial mattes perhaps anywhere from hundred of thousands to millions of years ago.
Everything in this galaxy is approximately the same age as the sun, 4.6 billion years, having started from its birth. Is earth just so perfectly in place that evolution of life happened here by the vagaries of some fluke? Why here? It’s too neat, too fiercely assured.
Life is rare. That in itself is a serious statement.