The viruses are probably out there.
Viruses are considered one of Earth’s most abundant organisms – about 10 to 100 times more plentiful than anything else on Earth. But they’re also one of the least understood.
One team of scientists think that other planets could be teeming with these cellular organisms. Since viruses are often believed to have played a role in the formation of life on Earth, studying this could be a crucial component in the search for alien life. But currently, there’s no research to understand if or how these organisms might exist outside of Earth’s atmosphere.
“More than a century has passed since the discovery of the first viruses. Entering the second century of virology, we can finally start focusing beyond our own planet,” Ken Stedman, a biology professor at Portland State University, said in a statement.
Stedman and his colleagues have written a report urging NASA and other space agencies to begin looking for viruses in samples from Saturn and Jupiter’s moons. Their article, “Astrovirology: Viruses at Large in the Universe,” will be published in the February issue of Astrobiology.
In addition to collecting samples, the team wants NASA to develop technology and methods that could detect viruses in ancient Earth deposits, as well as learn if viruses from Earth could survive in space.
“Viruses have a bad rap. If we find viruses on other planets it is an indication of life, not something to be scared of,” Stedman told Gizmodo. “Viruses rock!”