I suppose I’ll stop writing about Philae and Rosetta and comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko eventually, probably even soon. The mission is done (except it’s not – Philae may well rise from the dead as Churyumov-Gerasimenko gets closer to the Sun – but that won’t be for a while). Other space feats will happen and the news will fade..
But…Philae is phoning it in posthumously, and ‘it’ is absolutely amazing. They’ve discovered carbon on the comet. This is major. The old Drake equation keeps getting pushed back and back and back.
We now know there are planets around other suns -lots and lots of them. We know that water is not just an earthly phenomenon. Now, we know that you can find carbons, maybe even carbon compounds, on comets.
Not only is it looking like life in the galaxy is common but even life that’s more or less as we know it. Of course, this does not mean there won’t also be Silicon monsters like the Horta, and intelligent energy clouds, and green-skinned women in 60s hairdos and antennae. There is room for a lot of diversity, but life as we know it is what we’d like to find.
I believe it was Carl Sagan who said that probably the first extraterrestrial life we’d discover would be a bacteria, or something like that. The small stuff first. Well, this is one step before that.