“In science fiction, there is a lot of effort put into searching for signs of life like plants, animals and organisms that look like us. But there is a higher probability that alien life will be at the microscopic level,” says Rutgers University geochemist, Nathan Yee, co-investigator at the NASA-funded ENIGMA project that’s researching how proteins, “sophisticated nanomachines,” evolved to create life on earth. “That fact is so much more interesting when you consider what the earliest lifeforms on Earth were capable of doing.”
Beautiful blue planets with endless oceans may be orbiting many of the Milky Way’s one trillion stars. In 2016, for example, Kepler astronomers discovered planets that are unlike anything in our solar system –a “water world” planetary system orbiting the star Kepler-62. This five-planet system has two worlds in the habitable zone — their surfaces completely covered by an endless global ocean with no land or mountains in sight.
“I think that if we find life elsewhere it’s going to look, at least chemically, very much like modern life,” says evolutionary biologist William Martin at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany. “Among the astrobiological implications of our LUCA paper is the fact that you do not need light. It’s chemical energy that ran the origin of life, chemical energy that ran the first cells and chemical energy that is present today on bodies like Enceladus.”