Daily Bread for 10.19.11 | FREE WHITEWATER

Daily Bread for 10.19.11

Good morning.

It’s a day of high winds and showers in store for Whitewater, with the temperature topping out at about 50 degrees.

If you were looking for microbial life beyond Earth but elsewhere in the solar system, where might you look? Planetary scientists think the answer is somewhere other than Mars:

Scientists are now debating which might be best for a life-seeking mission. Their attention is focused on a frozen trio: Titan, Enceladus and Europa.

For centuries, these satellites appeared in the sky as mere points of light. Now, the three moony musketeers have personalities. Enormous Titan is exotic, the home of hydrocarbon lakes and a thick atmosphere. Tiny Enceladus spits salty water into the void around Saturn. And deceptively placid, ice-crusted Europa probably hosts a sloshing ocean so deep it tickles the moon’s rocky mantle.

Scientists don’t expect to find Europan plesiosaurs or Titanian redwoods, of course. But some experts think these moons may be the best chance for turning up tiny, animated microbes — or at least their footprints.

“It’s worth noting that the three strongest candidates are all in the outer solar system,” says Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. Indeed, these far-flung worlds might even trump Earth’s nearest planetary neighbors. “The inner planets are not such good candidates. Venus, Mercury — not even on the list. Mars? Not as high as these three.”

See, Fertile Frontiers: Alien-life hunters focus on moons in outer solar system. This exploration is worthy in-and-of itself, but there’s the added bonus that perhaps, just perhaps, we’ll learn something that will lead to the cure to the common cold, or some other equally practical application.


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