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Thread: Did our solar system's habitable zone just expand to Enceladus?

  1. #1
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    Did our solar system's habitable zone just expand to Enceladus?

    If there's any validity to NASA's recent announcement, it did. So I started thinking about all the places between here and there... could the bulk of our solar system then, be considered habitable to some form of life?
    Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has the greater view?

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    Quote Originally Posted by A.DIM View Post
    If there's any validity to NASA's recent announcement, it did. So I started thinking about all the places between here and there... could the bulk of our solar system then, be considered habitable to some form of life?
    No data suggests Enceladus is habitable.

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  3. #3
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    That depends on how we define "habitable zone". The most common one is the region in which heat from the Sun or a star in another system can maintain a planet's surface environment in a state in which life as we know it on Earth's surface can thrive. If we consider subterraneous places in bodies such as Enceladus where there are other sources of energy, then I would say the concept of a habitable zone is not very meaningful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hornblower View Post
    That depends on how we define "habitable zone". The most common one is the region in which heat from the Sun or a star in another system can maintain a planet's surface environment in a state in which life as we know it on Earth's surface can thrive. If we consider subterraneous places in bodies such as Enceladus where there are other sources of energy, then I would say the concept of a habitable zone is not very meaningful.
    Yes, I've argued the same thing, because I think life has adapted to myriad conditions, not just those found on Earth or in the traditional "goldilocks zone." But when I say "habitable to some form of life," I mean LAWKI, everything from microbes and extremophiles up. NASA's announcement suggests all that LAWKI needs is found on Enceladus. Of course, this has me thinking about material transfer...
    Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has the greater view?

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    As much as a lot of people wish to find extraterrestrial life forms, does the existence of water, necessary chemicals plus internal heat lead to the creation of life?

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    Quote Originally Posted by bknight View Post
    As much as a lot of people wish to find extraterrestrial life forms, does the existence of water, necessary chemicals plus internal heat lead to the creation of life?
    Good question.

    Does water and a source of energy support life? On Earth, it's everywhere we look.
    Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has the greater view?

  7. #7
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    Everywhere

    Quote Originally Posted by A.DIM View Post
    Good question.

    Does water and a source of energy support life? On Earth, it's everywhere we look.
    "Life . . .will find a way." - Michael Cricthon, via his Ian Malcolm character.
    I'm not a hardnosed mainstreamer; I just like the observations, theories, predictions, and results to match.

    "Mainstream isnít a faith system. It is a verified body of work that must be taken into account if you wish to add to that body of work, or if you want to change the conclusions of that body of work." - korjik

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    Habitable zones are energy dependent -- the right amount of energy for some sort of life to exist. Stellar luminosity, proximity to the star, and atmospheric conditions are the key variables, I think, for the common "habitablity zones". But energy for a moon can be generated by tidal action, but this involves more variables. Regardless, I would guess that someone could produce an equation that would show the habitability zone for a moon around a large planet, but it might look messy given all the conditions including time.
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

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    I feel like "habitable zone" is something of a misleading title, as I feel that when a lot of people hear it, they usually jump to the conclusion that it must mean habitable for complex (i.e. humans) lifeforms, and not necessarily simple, unicelllular lifeforms like bacteria or archaeabacteria. In addition, when I think of a habitable zone, my first thought is of a planet rather than a moon, as this is generally what the "habitable zone" focuses on primarily. I agree with George in their previous post, that they are "energy dependant", especially when it comes to the parent star. If--and this is a big if--there are even simple life forms found on Europa or Enceladus, do you think this could lead to a redefinition or rethink of how to define a habitable/goldilocks zone?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hornblower View Post
    That depends on how we define "habitable zone". The most common one is the region in which heat from the Sun or a star in another system can maintain a planet's surface environment in a state in which life as we know it on Earth's surface can thrive. If we consider subterraneous places in bodies such as Enceladus where there are other sources of energy, then I would say the concept of a habitable zone is not very meaningful.
    Well, the habitable "zone" is defined by the most simple and common criteria where the star provides enough insolation to keep water liquid.

    It does not include other circumstances where life can be sustained. It's not meant to be exhaustive.

    But, as far as searching for habitable areas from as far away as we are, it's a way better bet than looking for tiny moons around gas giants. Those might be better classified as habitable points.

  11. #11
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    Love that question! Usually, we humans think that water has to be present to be able to dissolve salts and minerals to be able to create the necessary precursors to cellular life, however, we know too little to say that other liquids at lower or higher temperatures might not be able to do the same. There is even a possibility that a metallic liquid might be able to do so also.

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