How can we test for life? – Detect genetic material

Finding extraterrestrial life isn’t necessarily as simple as looking for it with our eyes. A lifeform might be too small to see, or too far away, or too different than what we expect to find. In addition to direct observation, we can also infer (deduce) the presence of life by looking at traces (clues) that a living thing leaves behind.

Detecting genetic material

  • Living things on Earth contain genetic material (for example: DNA, RNA) and proteins.
  • If we detect traces of genetic material, this might be evidence that a lifeform is present.
  • That said, components from genetic material have been discovered on meteorites and asteroids without a lifeform actually being present.