Water. It's found everywhere on Earth, from the polar ice caps to steamy geysers. And wherever water flows on this planet, you can be sure to find life.
"When we find water here on Earth — whether it be ice-covered lakes, whether it be deep-sea hydrothermal vents, whether it be arid deserts — if there's any water, we've found microbes that have found a way to make a living there," said Brian Glazer, an oceanographer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who has studied astrobiology.
Water may be more than a fluid to help facilitate life's essential processes — it may also have been the protective cradle that carried thebuilding blocks of life to Earth, said Ralf Kaiser, a physical experimental chemist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who has research experience in astrochemistry.One theory for how life on Earth emerged, called panspermia, posits that icy comets smashed into Earth, bearing tiny organic molecules that formed the precursors to life. But traveling through space is a harsh journey, with punishing levels of radiation that would normally degrade those delicate molecules, Kaiser said.
However, in its solid form, water could have provided a way to shield those molecules from radiation, Kasier speculated."One possibility is that because the building blocks are frozen within the water, it has this protective mantle around it that could be delivered," Kaiser told Live Science.