Finding life in the solar system: A new synthesis

November 08, 2001

Astrobiology is a new interdisciplinary science with cosmic import. It incorporates such disciplines as biology, microbiology, ecology, molecular biology, biochemistry, geology, paleontology, space and gravitational biology, planetology, and astronomy. Its mission to find extraterrestrial life even captured the government's attention when Jack Farmer (Department of Geological Sciences at Arizona State University) testified about NASA's efforts to explore for extraterrestrial life before the Committee on Science in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 12, 2001.

Farmer will present a new synthesis of ideas on how the burgeoning field of geobiology is playing a key role in our search for life in the Solar System on Thursday, November 8, at the Geological Society of America's annual meeting. His synthesis will include part of his testimony recorded in the Congressional Record.

A number of dynamic factors have led to the rise of astrobiology as a science. Scientists have realized that most of Earth's biodiversity is microbial and that large complex microbial ecosystems found in hydrothermal environments can exist entirely on chemical energy. One intriguing hypothesis (with obvious importance for astrobiology) is that life got started in hydrothermal environments. Could hydrothermal environments have been cradles for life on other planets? Discoveries of new forms of life on Earth that thrive in extreme environments broadened the possibilities that similar forms of life might also exist under similar extreme conditions beyond the Earth. Research on other planets and their moons are revealing the presence of environments that compare well with discoveries on Earth, and so there is even more reason to think that they could also sustain life.

"As a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute and Director of ASU's Astrobiology Program, I have continually come into contact with wonderfully visionary scientists who are helping expand the horizons of astrobiology," Farmer said. "This has been my main source of inspiration. I guess at the bottom line, it's just an exciting time to be in science."
-end-
Written by Kara LeBeau, GSA Staff Writer, with Jack Farmer

CONTACT INFORMATION

During the GSA Annual Meeting, November 4-8, contact Ann Cairns or Christa Stratton at the GSA Newsroom in the Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Massachusetts, for assistance and to arrange for interviews: (617) 954-3214.

The abstract for this presentation is available at: http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2001AM/finalprogram/abstract_24965.htm

Post-meeting contact information:

Contact information:
Jack D. Farmer
Geological Sciences
Arizona State University
E-Mail: jfarmer@asu.edu
Phone: 480-965-6748
Fax: 480-965-8102

Ann Cairns
Director of Communications
Geological Society of America
Phone: 303-357-1056
Fax: 303-357-1074
acairns@geosociety.org

For more information about GSA visit our Web site at: http://www.geosociety.org

Geological Society of America

Related Solar System Articles from Brightsurf:

Ultraviolet shines light on origins of the solar system
In the search to discover the origins of our solar system, an international team of researchers, including planetary scientist and cosmochemist James Lyons of Arizona State University, has compared the composition of the sun to the composition of the most ancient materials that formed in our solar system: refractory inclusions in unmetamorphosed meteorites.

Second alignment plane of solar system discovered
A study of comet motions indicates that the Solar System has a second alignment plane.

Pressure runs high at edge of solar system
Out at the boundary of our solar system, pressure runs high.

What a dying star's ashes tell us about the birth of our solar system
A UA-led team of researchers discovered a dust grain forged in a stellar explosion before our solar system was born.

What scientists found after sifting through dust in the solar system
Two recent studies report discoveries of dust rings in the inner solar system: a dust ring at Mercury's orbit, and a group of never-before-detected asteroids co-orbiting with Venus, supplying the dust in Venus' orbit.

Discovered: The most-distant solar system object ever observed
A team of astronomers has discovered the most-distant body ever observed in our solar system.

Discovery of the first body in the Solar System with an extrasolar origin
Asteroid 2015 BZ509 is the very first object in the Solar System shown to have an extrasolar origin.

First interstellar immigrant discovered in the solar system
A new study has discovered the first known permanent immigrant to our solar system.

A star disturbed the comets of the solar system in prehistory
About 70,000 years ago, when the human species was already on Earth, a small reddish star approached our solar system and gravitationally disturbed comets and asteroids.

Scientists detect comets outside our solar system
Scientists from MIT and other institutions, working closely with amateur astronomers, have spotted the dusty tails of six exocomets -- comets outside our solar system -- orbiting a faint star 800 light years from Earth.

Read More: Solar System News and Solar System Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.