Rotating Question Curious About Astronomy? Ask an Astronomer

Why search for only Earth-like life on other planets?

Our family went to see a program at the Barlow Planetarium in Appleton, Wisconsin last night. The narrator was talking about conditions that would be necessary to support life, including requirements for temperature, atmosphere and elements or compounds. How much imagination can we use to suppose that life may have developed in circumstances far different from ours?

You are of course 100% correct that we really have no way of knowing what conditions are required for life in general; we only know what is required for life like us. Indeed, it takes only a little imagination to think of how life might arise otherwise.

On the other hand, if we go out and start searching for life, we have to narrow our search, or else we'll be searching all of 10 billion stars in our galaxy. So to narrow down the search, most astronomers who look for extraterrestrial life search near single stars like our sun, where planets like Earth might be found. After all, we know for a fact that Earth's conditions are conducive to life, so we should search Earth-like places first to find life in the universe.

March 1999, Dave Kornreich (more by Dave Kornreich) (Like this Answer)

Still Curious?

Get More 'Curious?' with Our New PODCAST:

Related questions:

More questions about SETI and Extraterrestrial Life: Previous | Next

How to ask a question:

If you have a follow-up question concerning the above subject, submit it here. If you have a question about another area of astronomy, find the topic you're interested in from the archive on our site menu, or go here for help.

Table 'curious.Referrers' doesn't existTable 'curious.Referrers' doesn't exist

URL: http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=201
This page has been accessed 20408 times since September 11, 2002.
Last modified: October 21, 2002 10:35:25 AM

Legal questions? See our copyright, disclaimer and privacy policy.
Ask an Astronomer is hosted by the Astronomy Department at Cornell University and is produced with PHP and MySQL.

Warning: Your browser is misbehaving! This page might look ugly. (Details)