A jelly-like leviathan slowly glides in the black waters. Towards it, surrounded by the faint sparkle of tiny blue and red plankton, swims a torpedo-shaped creature with teeth of frozen crystal, hunting for a meal.
…There are, of course, plenty of mysteries to solve here on Earth – the Prime Minister, for example, wants to know: “What is the single scientific advance that would do most to help us reduce poverty across the globe?”
But according to an ongoing poll for National Science and Engineering Week, being carried out at www.the-ba.net/thebigquestion, it is extraterrestrials that have commanded the public imagination.
You only need to look at our own world to see that life can emerge in different environments. We have found hardy microbes in environments previously thought too hostile to support life.
But bigger life forms can also flourish: nobody thought that krill (Euphausia superba), shrimp-like crustaceans, could live at crushing pressures 9,800ft below the Antarctic ocean, yet it was reported a few days ago by Professor Andy Clarke of the British Antarctic Survey that a robotic underwater vehicle, Isis, had gathered evidence of them at pressures 300 times greater than that on the surface.
This has spurred speculation that if there is life down there, ET might be somewhere “up there”.
While some scientists suspect that bacteria may once have thrived on Mars, and may still lurk there, by far the most promising site in our own solar system is Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons – at least according to the experts responding to the Science Week poll. – telegraph