So far, Earth has the only life that we know of. In studying
how life, especially microbial life, has transformed our
world, we learn what other living worlds may be like. And
in studying the amazing variety of life here, we learn about
possible evidence to look for on alien worlds elsewhere in the universe.
Where do we find life on Earth? The answer guides our search
for life elsewhere in the cosmos. One surprising discovery
is that life exists on our planet in places where we never
expected it: in rocks nearly a mile deep, underneath and
inside glaciers, near superheated steam vents on the ocean
floor, in hot springs, and in other extreme environments.
Most “extremophiles” (lovers of extreme conditions)
are single-celled microbes. Similar life forms may exist
in extreme conditions on other worlds.
Who knows what kind of life we may find in space? This artist’s
view from a passing asteroid shows an Earth-like planet in
the habitable zone around a double star system. The habitable
zone is the region in a solar system where water can exist
in its liquid state on a planet’s surface.