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4 Potential Alien Hiding Places in The Solar System | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio WRITTEN BY: Dylan Musselman
If you were an alien, were would you go? Join us... to find out more!

The search for aliens in the solar system goes on... but science has now found some much more likely hiding places than others. In this video, Unveiled takes a closer look at some of the leading candidates for solar system locations that could be hosting alien life!
Transcript

Four Potential Alien Hiding Places in The Solar System


Given the size of the universe, it seems like there must be alien life out there! So why haven’t we heard from them? This puzzle is known as the Fermi Paradox, named after Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi. And there have been several solutions proposed: perhaps intelligent life is extremely rare, or the distances between civilizations are just too great. Or maybe they’re hiding …

This is Unveiled and today we’re looking at Four Potential Alien Hiding Places In The Solar System.

It’s difficult to estimate the odds of alien life existing in our universe with any certainty. For starters, we’re still not clear on how exactly life forms. We also have a very limited data set to work with, because so far, Earth is the only planet we know of that hosts intelligent life. However, there are so many planets, stars, and galaxies out there, it would be a miracle if there wasn’t life out there somewhere. A 2020 paper by astronomers Tom Westby and Christopher Conselice estimated that there are probably at least 36 intelligent civilizations in just the Milky Way galaxy itself.

If aliens are as close as our own solar system, they must be keeping a very low profile. But why would they? Well, the Zoo Hypothesis posits that maybe extraterrestrials treat us like we do zoo animals, observing us from a distance for research and entertainment. An even more unsettling theory is the Dark Forest Hypothesis, which suggests that contact between civilizations is so fraught with peril, the safest option is to remain hidden and strike from the shadows. Each civilization is like a hunter, moving through the trees, shooting on sight to remain alive. Then again, maybe aliens are hiding because they know there’s something much worse out there, destroying everything in its path. And here we are on Earth, oblivious, noisily transmitting signals into space from radio and television! Of course, for any aliens nearby, that fearful “something” might actually be … us!

If aliens are in our solar system already, where could they be?

While Jupiter is a gas giant, its moons could make for habitable homes and hideouts. One of the most obvious candidates is Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system. Scientists have detected clay-like minerals on the icy moon, which are associated with organic materials - so the building blocks for life could already be there. There’s also a thin atmosphere composed mostly of oxygen, created by radiation from the sun melting the ice. Most importantly though, it’s thought that heat from tidal flexing has created a vast subsurface ocean beneath the moon’s crust. This is crucial, as liquid water seems to be a must for life. The ocean is hidden beneath an ice sheet some six to nineteen miles thick - providing the perfect cover for any indigenous species or visitors. For all we know, this ocean could be teeming with life.

From a strategic point of view, hanging around Jupiter seems pretty smart. The terrestrial planets are all bunched together, while Jupiter is far away enough that it isn’t easily studied. The next probe designed to study Europa specifically, the Europa Clipper Spacecraft, will launch in 2024, but won’t arrive until 2030.

What if the aliens wanted a closer vantage point to watch us? Well, Mars is a terrible choice if your goal is to hide, given all our rovers and satellites. Earth’s twin Venus, however, is a pretty ingenious hiding spot if you have the technology or biology to survive there. At its shortest distance from Earth in orbit, Venus comes closer than any other planet. And yet despite this, it’s nearly impossible to see the surface. The planet is coated in clouds that reflect visible light - providing an excellent cloaking mechanism. The only way to get a good look at the surface is to send probes down, but that too is extremely challenging due to blistering surface temperatures that reach around 900 degrees Fahrenheit. To this day, the longest time any machine has survived on the surface is 127 minutes, accomplished in 1982 by the Soviet Venera 13. Of course, this same heat creates inhospitable conditions for life. But the heat eases off as you ascend higher into the clouds, which has led scientists to suggest that we could colonize Venus by building floating habitats. What if aliens have already done so, and are living there now in floating cities in the clouds?

Then again, if aliens evolved on Venus, before a runaway greenhouse effect warmed the planet, they might have adapted to the heat - allowing them to live on the surface or underground. Or maybe aliens from some other hot planet chose to colonize Venus! If you could stand the heat and pressure, Venus would make an excellent outpost from which to launch ships and probes to
Earth.

If aliens prized discretion over proximity to Earth, a better locale would be the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Trying to find aliens in the asteroid belt would be like searching for a needle in a haystack. The belt is composed of millions of objects, most of them fairly small. However, there are about 700,000 with diameters of over half a mile, and at least 200 with diameters of over 60 miles. They’re spaced out over a huge area; the asteroid belt is about 1AU thick and the same again wide. Short for Astronomical Unit, one AU is the distance from the Earth to the Sun, which is about 93 million miles. That’s a massive area to explore; it isn’t like in the movies where asteroids are all bunched together.

It isn’t impossible that these asteroids harbour life. One hypothesis for abiogenesis on Earth is panspermia, the idea that the seeds of life were planted here by meteors. If this is true, then there could be lifeforms in the asteroid belt, and they could have evolved as well. NASA scientist Lucy McFadden has proposed a mission to study the asteroid belt for signs of life. Of special interest is the dwarf planet Ceres, which shows evidence of both water and low radiation environments. As an added bonus, if aliens are hiding out in the belt, they could also be mining asteroids for material, something humans might consider one day.

What if aliens wanted their very own planet to live and build on in plain sight, but also didn’t want to be noticed? If so, Planet Nine would be as close to the perfect hiding spot as possible. Planet Nine is a hypothetical planet proposed in 2014 to explain the orbits of certain trans-Neptunian objects. Its mass is thought to be considerable, between five to ten times that of the Earth. However, despite our best attempts, we have yet to locate it, leaving scientists unsure if it even exists. Its orbit is thought to be so far away that we might only have one telescope on Earth, the Subaru Telescope, that could see it. But scientists have no idea where it might be in its orbit. All we know is that there seems to be something huge out there, exerting a gravitational pull. It’s such a mystery that some scientists think it could be a small black hole!

Even more interesting, it’s thought that Planet Nine could be alien in nature, originating from outside of our own solar system. If any aliens wanted to come to our solar system and set up base on a massive planet without being observed, Planet Nine would make the perfect candidate. And since it could have come from outside of our solar system, maybe it was purposefully brought and positioned!

Of course, alien life could be hiding in a much less intentional way. Intelligent life is presumably far rarer than simple, microbial life like bacteria or single celled organisms. So it’s possible that there’s lots of life out there, it just hasn’t evolved the intelligence or developed the technology needed to make contact. It could exist in unexpected places; our studies of extremophiles on Earth have surprised us again and again with life’s ability to survive extreme conditions. Tardigrades, for instance, can even survive in the vacuum of space for a time.

It isn’t impossible that there are hardy forms of intelligent life out there too. And they could be hiding almost anywhere. Nonetheless, these planets and moons are ideal candidates to consider.

And those are four potential alien hiding spots in the solar system.
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