With all our elegant technology and our ability to detect distant objects in the universe, thousands of light-years away, why have not we had alien contact? Blame the cold world of the ocean!
Planetary scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute believes that our contact with alien civilizations can be hampered by the fact that they could be buried under the ice.
Most extraterrestrial organisms are probably found deep in their home planets, in oceans completely covered by thick layers of ice, according to a new proposal presented by Stern at the meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Utah . .
Experts agree that this hypothesis could explain the lack of signals from other technologically advanced civilizations, an enigma known as Fermi’s paradox.
Only recently have astronomers come to appreciate how the common oceans are in our solar system; the evidence of its existence can be seen in several moons of Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune, and even in distant Pluto.
All these worlds have water ice as a major component of their crust, which forms towering mountains and cracked canyons on their surfaces, but melts in liquid water at lower depths.
The hydrothermal vents on these ocean floors could pump nutrients into their environment, as do the ecosystems at the bottom of Earth’s oceans. These cradles of life, protected from space by a thick layer of ice, could even be more productive than our own exposed environment.
And if the living organisms in the icy ocean worlds evolve into intelligent creatures, they probably would not know the night sky as well as we humans do.
Perhaps the equivalent of a ” space program ” would simply be limited to crossing the icy surface of the planet, suggests Stern.
His proposal is not based on new evidence, but for the first time links the prevalence of frozen ocean worlds with the lack of alien signals.
According to Stern: ” Due to the depth of the typical Type II oceans and the superimposed thermal insulation provided by the planetary top over these oceans, these environments are protected against numerous types of external risks to life, such as impacts, radiation, surface climate and cycles of obliquity, poisonous atmospheres and nearby astrophysical deleterious events such as novae and supernovae, starburst dangers and even phenomena such as the weak early sun. The interiors are naturally disconnected from communication by their inner nature under a thick roof of ice or rock and ice, therefore, they are not easily revealed. In this talk, I will examine this new idea in more detail
The idea is intriguing, says psychologist Douglas Vakoch, president of Courier Extraterrestrial Intelligence in San Francisco, California, but believes there is no need to invoke Fermi’s paradox, sciencemag.org reports .
The biochemical indications of life are simply difficult to detect remotely, he says, and it is likely that new telescopes and techniques will be needed to find our cosmic neighbors.
If they do not find us first, says Stern, it could be because they decide that long-distance communication is not worth it, especially if they believe that everyone else is trapped in their own icy bubbles.