Is there a slight possibility that once, sometimes in the distant past perhaps, life as we know it thrived on Earth’s moon?
According to the latest claims made by a group of astrobiologists, conditions to support simple organisms have existed at least twice since Earth’s faithful comic companion formed, more than four billion years ago.
Now, of course, Earth’s moon is a barren, desolate place, with no resemblance whatsoever of life on its surface.
But despite the fact that the moon may seem an unforgiving place for life, this may not have been always like that.
Astrobiologists at Washington State University (WSU) and University of London have come across ‘two points’ in the natural satellites four billion years existence that suggests it may have harbored life as we know it.
Experts explain that one of the points occurred shortly after the moon came into existence, and the second one during the peak in lunar volcanic activity, some 3.5 billion years ago.
Scientists say that the exact conditions needed to support the existence of even the simplest lifeforms are impossible to find in the cosmos.
And as we as a civilization have started searching for alien life like never before, I believe that few of us even though of the remote possibility that Earth’s moon may have supported life.
So far Earth is the only known planet in the entire universe that hosts life.
However, another place where life may actually thrive is another moon in our solar system: Enceladus.
An article recently published in the journal ‘Nature’ argues that Enceladus, an icy moon of Saturn, contains all the requirements to house life.
The search for life beyond Earth has seen experts focusing on some of our neighbors in the solar system and scientists believe that the best assets could be Europe (one of the moons of Jupiter) and Enceladus, Saturn’s moon.
But the knowledge that Earth’s moon may have harbored life in the distant past is an important discovery that could change the way we look for alien life.,
During both periods, astrobiologists from Washington State University (WSU) and University of London believe that out-gassing caused from volcanic activity may have helped form pools of liquid water on the moon’s surface, as well as an atmosphere which may have been dense enough to keep water in a liquid state for millions of years.
“If liquid water and a significant atmosphere were present on the early Moon for long periods of time, we think the lunar surface would have been at least transiently habitable,” said Professor Dirk Schulze-Makuch, of WSU.
The revolutionary discoveries were made possible thanks to recent space mission as well as studies of lunar rocks and soil samples that reveal the lunar surface isn’t anywhere near as dry as once believed.
Evidence of the presence of water on the moon was discovered in 2009 and 2010 when scientists found ‘hundreds of metric tons of water ice’ presented on the Moon.
If that wasn’t enough, researchers have also discovered traces of a large amount of water in the lunar mantle, believed to have been deposited in the early stages of the moon’s formation.
However, in addition to water and an atmosphere, primitive organisms also need protection from the dangerous solar winds.
Evidence of a magnetic field on the moon has also been discovered, which means that primitive organisms may have been protected by an atmosphere and magnetic field that shielded their development for millions of years.
But, if there was life on Earth’s moon billions of years ago, how did it get there?
Well, scientists point towards outer space.
Researchers believe that life on the Moon may have been brought in by asteroids, similar to the proposed theory for the origins of life on Earth. It was ‘brought’ from elsewheree.
So far, scientists have discovered the earliest evidence for life on Earth from fossilized cyanobacteria, which existed on Earth between 3.5 and 3.8 billion years ago. During this time, it is believed that our solar system was heavily bombarded by asteroids and meteorites.
Experts argue that the Moon may have been hit by a meteorite carrying simple organisms like cyanobacteria during one of the periods where the lunar surface was habitable.
“It looks very much like the Moon was habitable at this time,” Dr. Schulze-Makuch said. “There could have actually been microbes thriving in water pools on the Moon until the surface became dry and dead.”