Talk:Extraterrestrial life

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Former good articleExtraterrestrial life was one of the Natural sciences good articles, but it has been removed from the list. There are suggestions below for improving the article to meet the good article criteria. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
Article milestones
December 11, 2005Good article nomineeListed
July 16, 2009Good article reassessmentDelisted
Current status: Delisted good article

830 myo potentially alive microorganisms?[edit]

On 6 May 2022, scientists reported the discovery of 830 million year old microorganisms in fluid inclusions within halite that may, potentially, still be alive. According to the researchers, "This study has implications for the search for life in both terrestrial and extraterrestrial chemical sedimentary rocks."[1][2] - Drbogdan (talk) 22:02, 17 May 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]


  1. ^ Schreder-Gomes, Sara I.; et al. (6 May 2022). "830-million-year-old microorganisms in primary fluid inclusions in halite". Geology. doi:10.1130/G49957.1. Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  2. ^ Starr, Michelle (16 May 2022). "Potentially Alive 830-Million-Year-Old Organisms Found Trapped in Ancient Rock". ScienceAlert. Retrieved 17 May 2022.

Government responses[edit]

Do we really need that section? All subsections are tiny, just 1 or 2 small paragraphs about a time someone said something. And most of those times, it's either redundant or better suited for Unidentified flying object or Potential cultural impact of extraterrestrial contact. I propose to remove the subsections for specific countries, and focus instead on the international treaties (which are just listed, and may require a more in-depth description) and the policies of the space agencies towards this investigations. Cambalachero (talk) 15:02, 14 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Mention in lead that extraterrestrial life not yet found[edit]

I agree that the lead should summarise the article body by saying explicitly that extraterrestrial life has not yet been found.

I therefore request that the old version

Extraterrestrial life,[n 1] sometimes colloquially referred to as alien life, is life that may occur outside Earth and which did not originate on Earth. Such life might range from simple forms comparable to prokaryotes, to intelligent beings and even sapient beings, possibly bringing forth civilizations that might be far more advanced than humankind.

be replaced by the proposed new version (recently reverted)

Extraterrestrial life,[n 2] sometimes colloquially referred to as alien life, is life that may occur outside Earth and which did not originate on Earth. No extraterrestrial life has yet been conclusively detected, although efforts are underway. Such life might range from simple forms comparable to prokaryotes, to intelligent beings and even sapient beings, possibly bringing forth civilizations that might be far more advanced than mankind.

Please consider. There is a natural human tendency to seek companionship out there in the universe, the final frontier, but that emotion should not compromise Wikipedia as an unemotional Spock-like source of information. Live long and prosper...2A00:23C6:549D:C301:B0AA:A4E9:B290:36F2 (talk) 10:12, 22 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There is already a paragraph that says "Since the mid-20th century, active research has taken place to look for signs of extraterrestrial life, encompassing searches for current and historic extraterrestrial life, and a narrower search for extraterrestrial intelligent life. Depending on the category of search, methods range from the analysis of telescope and specimen data[9] to radios used to detect and send communication signals.". Cambalachero (talk) 12:58, 22 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Presumably you are referring to the brief passage "although efforts are underway". We could indeed omit those four words, but then the subsequent sentence "Such life etc" would sound disjointed.2A00:23C6:549D:C301:B0AA:A4E9:B290:36F2 (talk) 13:50, 22 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No, the whole added text would be redundant with it. If we are searching for alien life, it's clear that we have not found any alien life yet. Cambalachero (talk) 14:03, 22 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It was not clear to me from reading the lead. Be that as it may, the lead needs to summarise the main points of the article, and one main point of the article is that extraterrestrial life has not yet been discovered. 2A00:23C6:549D:C301:B0AA:A4E9:B290:36F2 (talk) 14:17, 22 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Perhaps our disagreement is a generation problem, if you are young. Until the 1970s, astronomy textbooks were widely reporting that green patches on Mars represent vegetation. And even a few years ago, nanostructures in a Martian meteorite, and methane releases into Mars' atmosphere, were published, scientifically, as probable signs of life. The lead needs to be crystal clear here. 2A00:23C6:549D:C301:B0AA:A4E9:B290:36F2 (talk) 14:21, 22 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
As Cambalachero rightly states, there is already text that refers. You should not delete until all discussion are finished. Regards, David J Johnson (talk) 16:53, 22 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The lead sounds as if it was written by an enthusiastic child hoping there are aliens out there. I understand where you two are coming from (I was young once), but it is an embarrassment to Wikipedia, and puts off the intelligent reader. Please do the right thing and make it sound more professional, by implementing the proposed sober factual sentence that extraterrestrial life has so far not been detected. 2A00:23C6:549D:C301:B0AA:A4E9:B290:36F2 (talk) 18:21, 22 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Actually, I'm a supporter of the Rare Earth hypothesis, as that sounds to me the most reasonable conclusion to the available data; but I don't let my personal beliefs get in the way of my edits to the articles. And I suppose I do a good job at that, because you're not the first one who accuses me of believing things that I don't. Having said that, our personal backgrounds are of no concern here: redundancy is redundant, and it should be avoided simply because of that. Cambalachero (talk) 18:44, 22 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Loads of prebiotic molecules found in Milky Way?[edit]

FWIW - (For being aware only of newly published relevant studies - not necessarily to incorporate into the main article) - On 8 July 2022, astronomers reported the discovery of massive amounts of prebiotic molecules, including for RNA, in the galactic center of the Milky Way Galaxy.[1][2] - Stay Safe and Healthy !! - Drbogdan (talk) 13:05, 10 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Drbogdan (talk) 13:05, 10 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Better "short description" of "ET life"?[edit]

@GhostInTheMachine and Kitchen Knife: (and others) - My newly added short description for "Extraterrestrial life" has been "reverted" - my short description of "Extraterrestrial life" was => "Life in the universe outside of life on Earth" - and replaced the older description (ie, "Life that did not originate on Earth"). This older description would suggest, for instance, that newly created life-forms on the "International Space Station"[1][2] may be considered "Extraterrestrial life" since such life-forms may have been newly created in space and not on Earth in fact - my newer short description (ie, "Life in the universe outside of life on Earth") seems clearer - "Extraterrestrial life" means, by definition, that there is no relationship whatsoever with life on planet Earth - in addition, my newer short description seems more consistent with the related "Encyclopedia Britannica" definition => "Extraterrestrial life [is] life that may exist or may have existed in the universe outside of Earth"[3] - Comments Welcome - in any case - Stay Safe and Healthy !! - Drbogdan (talk) 13:30, 15 October 2022 (UTC) Drbogdan (talk) 13:30, 15 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

ADD - @BD2412, Cambalachero, Chiswick Chap, Cyclopia, Dekimasu, Dunkleosteus77, Huntster, PaleoNeonate, Paul H., Snow Rise, Tgeorgescu, Vchimpanzee, and Viriditas:
If possible (and if interested), related "Comments Welcome" regarding Short Description of "Extraterrestrial life" - in any case - Stay Safe and Healthy !! - Drbogdan (talk) 16:27, 15 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The older description is fine. The life on the ISS originated on earth, that it has changed and evolved on the ISS makes no difference to its origins. Leave it in the original form until you can get a consensus for change. That is how these things are normally done.--Kitchen Knife (talk) 15:44, 15 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Exactly, well said. Chiswick Chap (talk) 16:31, 15 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"Outside" is a spatial term. It was useful a pair of centuries ago, but now that we can leave the planet, and even take other lifeforms with us, it is not enough to set the distinction. "Originate" has the problem that it can lend itself to interpretation. We all use it to mean the species, but it can also be understood to be the individual. I'm sure that the day a baby is born in a base on Mars or the Moon everybody will call him an "extraterrestrial", even if he's not. And the ISS is not a stable environment (in some years its orbit will decay and it will fall back to the planet), but what if we left a lot of extremophiles on Mars, an extinction event takes place here, and they have some millions of years to thrive undisturbed and evolve their own way? Would they still be terrestrial life? Perhaps not.
I propose "Hypothetical life unrelated to life on Earth" Cambalachero (talk) 23:42, 15 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I also favor the older version: "life in the universe outside of life on Earth" is fairly cumbersome in its wordiness and flow, even to the point of having notable cognitive load. The difference isn't massive, but a short description ought to be instantaneously easy to parse, and "life originating on earth" or something to that effect, is the most instantly recognizable idiomatic phrasing for describing this topic. And personally, I don't think the syntactic issue with "originates" the OP sees in the wording is likely to be an issue for even relatively uninformed readers: I think it's fairly clear that when we talk about such life in the context of the ISS (or even anything moving beyond the mesosphere or even LEO or HEO), when we say it "originates" from earth, we are talking about the organism as a lifeform, not the particular specimen in question. Who knows if the day may come (perhaps even faster than we expect) where an organism may alter so significantly in some observable evolutionary aspect that we will perhaps have to really start to consider new and more nuanced wording here--but even then, when I say "we", I mean humanity and scientific nomenclature broadly, not we as the editors on this article. Because ultimately this still has to come down to a WP:WEIGHT call, and in my opinion, "life originating on Earth" seems to me the obvious choice in those terms, and likely to stay that way for some time to come. SnowRise let's rap 00:39, 16 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Comment - As OA of this discussion re a "better" short description of "ET life", Thanks to all those who contrtibuted - it's appreciated - seems the original short description of "ET life" (ie,Life that did not originate on Earth) may be preferred at this time - this is *entirely* ok with me - no problem whatsoever - however - the discussion may be a bit more interesting if one were to consider a definition of "Life" itself - not easy - there are "many, many different attempts" to define "Life", but an easy worthy definition may be "somewhat challenging" (over 123 different definitions?[4]) - a short description of "ET life" may be related - incidentally, "my current preferred definition" of "Life" is a "chemical that is able to reproduce itself"[5] - and seems supported by some[6][7] - [NOTE - the aforementioned definition is broad - a Virus may be considered Life since a virus would be a chemical that can reproduce itself - in spite of the fact that the needed reproducing function (mechanism) is provided by (hijacked from) some host entity and that is not contained within itself] - "NASA" currently prefers "a self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution"[8] - [NOTE - this definition is less broad - a Virus may NOT be considered Life since essential parts may be missing, and require a needed host entity to provide any missing parts - especially those parts needed in reproducing itself] - nonetheless - exactly how "viruses", "viroids", "virusoids", "prions", "biochemcal precursors to life", etc, enter into the definition(s) of life is unclear afaik at the moment - perhaps how such life/non-life(?) substances enter into a short description of "ET life" may be even less clear I would think - in any case - these concerns informed my attempt to find a better short description of "ET life" on this talk-page - Thanks again for all your comments - and - Stay Safe and Healthy !! - Drbogdan (talk) 15:35, 18 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The status of viruses, prions etc has always been a problem because they don't have a metabolic system, which is usually seen as a problem. There will be a big upheaval in the system if life is discovered on Mars and seems to be part of the same tree as life on Earth, as the gravity well makes it far more likely that life moved from Mars to Earth not vice versa making us all extraterrestrial. Any form of Panspermia is going to mean the entire question needs to be revised. The ability of life to survive on the outside of the ISS suggests panspermia is possible.--Kitchen Knife (talk) 16:23, 18 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
For crying out loud, people, it's a short description. It's meant to be a quick identifier of the topic of the article, not a catch-all that handles every possible subtlety -- see WP:SDNOTDEF. The current "Life that did not originate on Earth" is perfectly fine. Slightly better still would be: "Life not originating on Earth" -- a bit less wordy even. All this nonsense about panspermia and all these refs are smoke and mirrors. This isn't complicated. (talk) 16:34, 18 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Oh, and if folks want to add a qualifier of "hypothetical" at the beginning, that would be fine too. Either way, really. (talk) 16:39, 18 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
My comments about panspermia were not intended to change the definition but just some point for discourse, as any reasonably intelligent person would have been able to tell. Try to pay attention.--Kitchen Knife (talk) 16:42, 18 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The conversation appears to be heading in the right direction, but as a non-American speaker of English I just ask, if we do end up using the word "outside", please don't attach the completely unnecessary word "of" to it. In case Americans don't know, it's actually seen as bad English outside their country. HiLo48 (talk) 23:46, 15 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]


  1. ^ Staff (18 March 2021). "Three entirely new lifeforms discovered on space station - A new species never seen before by science was discovered on the space station through advanced genetic testing". Sky News. Retrieved 15 October 2022.
  2. ^ Bolles, Dana (15 October 2022). "Teeming Life on the ISS". NASA. Retrieved 15 October 2022.
  3. ^ Staff (2022). "Extraterrestrial life". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 15 October 2022.
  4. ^ Trifonov, Edward N. (17 March 2011). "Vocabulary of Definitions of Life Suggests a Definition". Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics. 29 (2): 259–266. doi:10.1080/073911011010524992. PMID 21875147.
  5. ^ Bogdan, Dennis (2 December 2012). "Comment - Life Thrives Throughout Universe?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 3 October 2015. Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  6. ^ Luttermoser, Donald G. (2016). "ASTR-1020: Astronomy II - Course Lecture Notes - Section XII" (PDF). East Tennessee State University. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 April 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2022.
  7. ^ Luttermoser, Donald G. (2016). "Physics 2028: Great Ideas in Science: The Exobiology Module" (PDF). East Tennessee State University. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 April 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2022.
  8. ^ Voytek, Mary A. (6 March 2021). "About Life Detection". NASA. Archived from the original on 18 March 2021. Retrieved 16 October 2022.

Recent bad source[edit]

I'm sort of dismayed that we actually have to discuss this, but if so, then here it is. The recent source that was added (this article from The Guardian) should not be in the lead. Per WP:LEADCITE, "Because the lead will usually repeat information that is in the body, editors should balance the desire to avoid redundant citations in the lead with the desire to aid readers in locating sources for challengeable material. Leads are usually less specific than the body, and information in the lead section of non-controversial subjects is less likely to be challenged and less likely to require a source [...]".

This was a case of a source in search of text, rather than the other way around, and this is not how sources should be added. The text in the lead was a very very broad, general statement which is gone into in much more detail in the body of the article with dozens of appropriate citations for more specific aspects. The Guardian article, on the other hand, was much more specific, talking mostly about missions to some of the Jovian moons. (talk) 16:07, 9 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I cannot agree with your rather aggressive attitude and your constant hiding behind a IP number, rather than creating an account - so that we may something about you; your interests and motivations. Having said that would you be happy if the Guardian story was referenced in the Jupiter and moons section further in the page text? I am trying to resolve what I, and others, consider the Guardian article to be relevant to the page. Regards, David J Johnson (talk) 17:06, 9 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Cite error: There are <ref group=n> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist|group=n}} template (see the help page).