Life in Dark Solar Systems

Copyright 1997, Clark M. Thomas
Clark Thomas

Life as we know it exists only on planets, and possibly moons, surrounding stars. At the same time much of the known universe is thought to be truly dark matter. Truly dark matter would be matter that cannot be detected directly or indirectly from our place in space. Black holes, for example, do not qualify as truly dark matter because they can be indirectly located.

Both Jupiter and Saturn have a similar number of "planets" as our sun has true planets. If it weren't for the sun itself, then either Jupiter or Saturn could in isolation qualify as dark solar systems, as seen from another stellar perspective. Jupiter and Saturn can be detected within this solar system in several local ways. (I am herein using the word "solar" loosely, because each dark "sol" would not be a glowing sun.)

Jupiter and Saturn are derived from the same swirling cloud that became our sun and its system of planets and other objects. There may be billions and billions of other undetectable swirling clouds that did not have enough mass to produce a glowing sun, but did have enough mass to produce a dark solar system.

The Earth is an example of a planet with a hot core. This heat is caused by gravity and radioactive decay, not by sunlight reaching its core. At the surface are oceans with water possibly the result of bombardment by millions of comet snow balls. Because ancient comets may be distributed throughout many areas of the universe, it is reasonable to speculate that similar phenomena would occur in dark solar systems.

At the bottom of our oceans are chemosynthetic bacteria. They do not rely on photosynthesis to live. This fact has been known since 1977 when researchers off the Galapagos found water around a thermal vent teeming with bacteria, and surrounded by 30-inch-long worms, large clams, mussels, and strange fish with blue eyes.

Recent explorations below the surface of the land suggest that chemosynthetic microbial populations exist in phenomenal numbers within rock pores. Such subterranean life may exist in nutrient soups up to several miles below the surface. If such is true, then the Earth's photosynthetic biosphere may have far less biomass than the Earth's chemosynthetic biosphere.

Because (1) dark solar systems can form from dark clouds, and (2) because sufficiently large bodies generate their own internal heat, and (3) because oceans can form from deep space comets, and (4) because bacteria are at the bottom of the food chain, and (5) because not all bacteria need sunlight -- it is reasonable to hypothesize that there may be millions or billions of dark planets in the cosmic darkness incubating some forms of life.