Most science fiction films will have a number of alien life forms on display. From the mostly humanoid looking aliens in Star Trek, to the far less lovable xenomorphic creatures in the Aliens franchise and the weird little green men that have graced the reels of popular casino games, there are extra-terrestrial life forms aplenty in the world of Hollywood. In real life, however, aliens have been far more elusive. But then again, given the size of the universe, that isn’t exactly surprising.
On the other hand, it turns out we may have already found alien life forms, and far closer to home than might have been assumed. Of course, the aliens in question are not as distinct in appearance as Klingons or xenomorphs. They are, instead, microscopic in nature, but alien none the less, given that they originated on a moon of Saturn.
Microbes On Enceladus?
Enceladus is one of the moons of Saturn, and hopeful scientists have declared that there is a possibility of alien life on its surface. Or, below it’s oceans, to be more precise. Given that the moon has any liquid water is amazing in itself, despite the fact that the water exists below an enormous crust of ice. But, given that water is essential for life, it’s presence got scientists dancing with excitement.
So, speculation quickly arose that a microbe that survives on methane may exist on Enceladus, given that the moon is rich in methane. But why would such a connection be made? Very simply because such Microbes exist on Earth, and could likewise live happily on Enceladus. But how could such a thing possibly be true?
The Methanogenic Archaeon
Discovered a kilometre deep in the Okinawa Trough, located near Japan, Methanothermococcus okinawensis was discovered. The microbe is so bizarre, and defied so many assumptions about life that it all but put scientists around the world into a tailspin. The microbe not only survived, but also thrived in conditions that were recently thought to be completely hostile to all life.
So, given the conditions in which the Earth bound microbe survived, and the conditions observed on Enceladus, the pieces of the puzzle were put together, with one obvious conclusion; Enceladus could, and may well support alien life. Indeed not the interesting life seen in science fiction movies, but alien life none the less.
And it should be kept in mind that it is not simply a prediction of life, but that the conditions on Enceladus seem to suggest the presence of a microbe similar to the Methanogenic Archaeon found off the coast of Japan.
So Aliens Exist?
At this point it is all nothing but speculation, assumption, and prediction. There is no solid proof of alien life on Enceladus, only signs that suggest it may be present. A probe would have to be sent to the moon of Saturn with the express purpose of finding the microbes, which would likely live on the floor of the moon’s endless oceans. Will this mission happen? Perhaps, but probably not any time soon.
A mission of this scale and magnitude would not only be immensely expensive, but also extremely complicated and difficult to manage. Plus, given that so many space projects are already underway, organisations like NASA simply don’t have the time or resources to throw around.
And the possibility can’t be overlooked that such an expensive mission could turn up nothing, making the entire venture an enormously expensive failure.
What If It Did Exist?
But what if the microbes did exist on the moon of Saturn? Simon Rittmann, a professor at the University of Vienna, Austria, had plenty to say on the topic when asked. He pointed out that proof of the concept, in the case of the Methanothermococcus okinawensis was indeed interesting, but that the alien form of this microbe would likely be nothing like it, even if it shared characteristics.
The conditions on the moon are extremely different to those on Earth, meaning that the microbe would be fundamentally different on every level. Rittmann concluded by saying that the value of finding, and studying such an alien organism would be incredible, but that the possibility is still only a pipe dream at this time. In the future, however, it may be more possible, bringing contact with alien life ever closer.