May 31, 2020 8:00 pm

Explore Alien Oceans with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jordan Klepper, and Kevin Peter Hand

If life were to exist elsewhere in our solar system, where would it be? Would it be underneath the surface of Mars? Would it be catching a ride on an asteroid? Maybe life is on the Moon and we didn’t look hard enough (just kidding). Given all the options, it seems like one of the most viable places life might be thriving is in the alien oceans of our solar system.

An Artist’s Rendering of Europa’s Surface as Jupiter Looms in the Background. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

An Artist’s Rendering of Europa’s Surface. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

On this week’s episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson is joined by comic co-host Jordan Klepper and Kevin Peter Hand, PhD. Kevin is a man of many titles. Most recently, he is the author of Alien Oceans: The Search for Life in the Depths of Space. Kevin is also an astrobiologist stationed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and serves as Deputy Project Scientist for the Europa Mission.

Let’s start with a simple question: why look for aliens in these oceans? Kevin tells us why, based on our understanding of life on Earth, liquid water is required for carbon-based life to thrive. That begs the question, if you’re only looking for life you already know, will you miss life you don’t expect? Kevin explains why good experiments are formed around hypotheses that allow for discoveries you aren’t expecting.

We discuss what it will take for a Europa mission in the “near” future. Find out how we would drill beneath the icy layer of Europa’s surface to get to the oceans underneath. You’ll learn how the icy surface plays a key part in keeping the oceans sustainable for life. Explore how the possibilities of life in these oceans are re-defining the standard definition of the “habitable zone.”

Discover more about universal biosignatures and NASA’s criteria for identifying life. Would finding DNA-based life on Europa or Enceladus be different from finding DNA-based life on Mars? Do we risk contaminating other planets if we send probes from Earth? You’ll hear why not finding life elsewhere would be as equally profound as finding life. All that, plus, we ponder what finding life on other planets would teach us about Earth.

Please join us tomorrow for Cosmic Queries – Alien Oceans at 7pm ET right here on our website, as well as on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re a StarTalk+ Patron or an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
– Ian Mullen

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