What’s exobiology’s job?

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Exobiology studies the possibility of life outside Earth and how it could survive in different environments. Geneticists, microbiologists, and other specialists can all work in exobiology, using existing organisms and unusual forms of life on Earth to theorize about life on other planets. Exobiologists may also inspect samples from outer space and interpret images to find signs of life. As of 2011, no definitive evidence of life beyond Earth had been found.

Exobiology is the study of possible forms of life outside the Earth’s environment. While exobiologists have yet to find definitive proof of alien life, they spend time searching for that proof and discovering the ways in which life could potentially survive elsewhere in the universe. Exobiologists may work closely with government space agencies.

The origin of life is of great interest to exobiologists, who use the theory of evolution in their studies. Any scientific field that can shed some light on how life originates and interacts with its environment has a role to play in exobiology. Geneticists, microbiologists, and even non-biological specialists such as geologists can all have careers in exobiology.

Geneticists and evolutionary biologists can study the existing genetic forms of organisms on Earth, put these survival mechanisms in the context of their environment, and come up with different theories about how organisms might live on different planets. Microbiologists enter the field of exobiology because their area of ​​expertise, microbes, is found all over the planet in a variety of environments. An important source of useful information about exobiology comes from the details of bacteria and other microscopic organisms that live in extreme environments unlike any other form of organism.

Unusual forms of life on Earth can also inform an exobiologist about possible ways for life to develop and thrive. For example, bacteria that can grow using arsenic, a generally toxic metal, provide a mechanism for exobiologists to theorize about how similar life forms might grow in similar environments. Bacteria that live in extremely hot temperatures could also provide insight into how life could survive in the early days on an Earth-like planet, where early life had to deal with similar temperatures.

An exobiologist may also be able to inspect samples from outer space, from meteorites to rock samples directly from the moon or from planets like Mars. He or she may also have researched the telltale fossil marks left by prehistoric organisms on Earth’s rocks and used them to compare rock samples in order to identify possible fossil remnants. The data an exobiologist collects on Earth is valuable for figuring out what markings on an alien rock might represent.

Exobiologists can also specialize in interpreting images taken from other planetary bodies. They may be able to pick out signs of water sources or seas even if they are ancient. Some exobiologists also study the concentrations of certain elements on other planets to find out, for example, whether the composition of the atmosphere indicates the presence of any life. As of 2011, exobiologists had still not been able to find definitive evidence of life beyond Earth, and interpretations of possible signs of life can be controversial.

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