Life on Neptune

by Fraser Cain on November 28, 2008

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Neptune, captured by Voyager 2. Image credit: NASA

Neptune, captured by Voyager 2. Image credit: NASA


We know there’s life on Earth, but could there be live on Neptune? And if there is life on Neptune, what kind of life is it?

Wherever we find liquid water on Earth, we find life. Whether that water is thousands of meters beneath the ground, inside nuclear reactors, or inside glaciers. As long as there’s water, there’s life. Of course, it’s just microbial life – but still, life.

To find life on Neptune, the planet would need to have a source of energy that bacterial life can exploit, as well as a standing source of liquid water. At its surface, the temperature of Neptune dips down to 55 Kelvin. That’s very cold, and there’s no way liquid water could exist.

But as you travel down into Neptune’s interior, temperatures and pressures increase. And there could very well be a point inside the planet where water remains as a liquid, and life could exist inside it. Of course, this region would be hundreds of kilometers below the surface, and would be impossible for us to study. So for now, it will have to remain a mystery.

Right now, scientists don’t know if there’s any life on Neptune, and the conditions on the planet seem very hostile for life. It’s unlikely we’ll ever find any there.

We wrote a detailed article on Universe Today about the possibility that there are oceans inside Neptune and other gas giant planets.

If you’d like more information on Neptune, take a look at Hubblesite’s News Releases about Neptune, and here’s a link to NASA’s Solar System Exploration Guide to Neptune.

We have recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast just about Neptune. You can listen to it here, Episode 63: Neptune.

About 

Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

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