Reading 3 “Life in Our Solar System ’
Although we can imagine life based on something other than carbon chemistry, we know of no examples to tell us how such life might arise and survive. We must limit our discussion to life as we know it and the conditions it requires. The most important requirement is the presence of liquid water, not only as part of the chemical reactions of life, but also as a medium to transport nutrients and wastes within the organism.
The water requirement automatically eliminates many worlds in our solar system. The moon is airless, and although some data suggest ice frozen in the soil at its poles, it has never had liquid water on its surface. In the vacuum of the lunar surface, liquid water would boil away rapidly. Mercury too is airless and cannot have had liquid water on its surface for long periods of time. Venus has some traces of water vapor in its atmosphere, but it is much too hot for liq¬uid water to survive. If there were any lakes or oceans of water on its surface when it was young, they must have evaporated quickly. Even if life began there, no traces would be left now.
The inner solar system seems too hot, and the outer solar system seems too cold. The Jovian planets have deep atmospheres, and at a certain level, they have moderate temperatures where water might condense into liquid droplets. But it seems unlikely that life could begin there. The Jovian planets have no surfaces where oceans could nurture the beginning of life, and cur¬rents in the atmosphere seem destined to circulate gas and water droplets from regions of moderate temperature to other levels that are much too hot or too cold for life to survive.
A few of the satellites of the Jovian planets might have suitable conditions for life. Jupiter’s moon Europa seems to have a liquid-water ocean below its icy crust, and minerals dissolved in that water would provide a rich broth of possi-bilities for chemical evolution. [A] Nevertheless, Europa is not a promising site to search for life because conditions may not have remained stable for the bil¬lions of years needed for life to evolve beyond the microscopic stage. [B] If Jupiter’s moons interact gravitationally and modify their orbits, Europa may have been frozen solid at some points in history. [C]
Saturn’s moon Titan has an atmosphere of nitrogen, argon, and methane and may have oceans of liquid methane and ethane on its surface. [D] The chemistry of life that might crawl or swim on such a world is unknown, but life there may be unlikely because of the temperature. The surface of Titan is a deadly-179°C (-290°F). Chemical reactions occur slowly or not at all at such low temperatures, so the chemical evolution needed to begin life may never have occurred on Titan.
Mars is the most likely place for life in our solar system. The evidence, how-ever, is not encouraging. Meteorite ALH84001 was found on the Antarctic ice in 1984. It was probably part of debris ejected into space by a large impact on Mars. ALH84001 is important because a team of scientists studied it and announced in 1996 that it contained chemical and physical traces of ancient life on Mars.
Scientists were excited too, but being professionally skeptical, they began testing the results immediately. In many cases, the results did not confirm the conclusion that life once existed on Mars. Some chemical contamination from water on Earth has occurred, and some chemicals in the meteorite may have originated without the presence of life. The physical features that look like fossil bacteria may be mineral formations in the rock.
Spacecraft now visiting Mars may help us understand the past history of water there and paint a more detailed picture of present conditions. Nevertheless, conclusive evidence may have to wait until a geologist in a space suit can wander the dry streambeds of Mars cracking open rocks and searching for fossils.
We are left to conclude that, so far as we know, our solar system is bare of life except for Earth. Consequently, our search for life in the universe takes us to other planetary systems.
27. The word automatically in the passage in closet in meaning to
A/ partially B/ actually C/ occasionally D/ naturally
28. The word it in the passage refers to
A/ ice B/ soil C/ moon D/ solar system
29. Which of the following statements about the water on Venus is true?
A/ The water evaporated because of the high temperatures.
B/ The water became frozen in the polar regions.
C/ Only a little water is left in small lakes on the surface.
D/ Rain does not fall because there is no atmosphere.
30. The word stable in the passage is closest in meaning to
A/ visible B/ active C/ constant D/ strong
31. What can be inferred from the passage about the Jovian planets?
A/ Some of the Jovian planets may have conditions that could support life,
B/ Jupiter is classified as one of the Jovian planets.
C/ Europa is the largest of the moons that revolve around Jupiter.
D/ The orbits of the Jovian planets have changed over time.
32. According to paragraph 5, why would life on Titan be improbable?
A/ It does not have an ocean.
B/ It is not a planet.
C/ It is too cold.
D/ It has a low atmosphere.
Paragraph 5 is marked with an arrow [-*].
33. Which of the sentences below best expresses the information in the highlighted statement in the passage? The other choices change the meaning or leave out important information.
A/ Life on Mars was found as a result of research in many cases.
B/ The evidence did not demonstrate that there was life on Mars in the past.
C/ Many cases of life were concluded in the history of Mars.
D/ The conclusion was that only one instance of life on Mars was verified.
34. The word originated in the passage is closest in meaning to
A/ turned B/ changed C/ begun D/ disappeared
35. Why does the author mention the meteorite “ALH84001” in paragraph 6?
A/ Because it was found in Antarctica about fifty years ago
B/ Because it was evidence of a recent impact on Mars
C/ Because scientists thought that it contained evidence of life on Mars
D/ Because the meteorite probably came from Mars a long time ago
Paragraph 6 is marked with an arrow [->].
36. How will scientists confirm the existence of life on Mars?
A/ By sending unmanned spacecraft to Mars
B/ By looking at fossils on Mars
C/ By viewing pictures taken of Mars
D/ By studying the present conditions on Mars
37. Which of the following statements most accurately reflects the author’s opinion about life in our solar system?
A/ Life is probably limited to planets in the inner solar system.
B/ There is a large body of evidence supporting life on Mars.
C/ There is little probability of life on other planets.
D/ We should explore our solar system for conditions that support life.
38. Look at the four squares [■] that show where the following sentence could be inserted in the passage.
Such periods of freezing would probably prevent life from developing.
Where could the sentence best be added?
Click on a square [■] to insert the sentence in the passage.
39. Directions: An introduction for a short summary of the passage appears below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer choices that mention the most important points in the passage. Some sentences do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that are not included in the passage or are minor points from the passage. This question is worth 2 points.
Current evidence does not support the theory of life in our solar system.
A/ The meteorite that was discovered in the Antarctic in the 1980s was thought to contain evidence of early life on Mars, but it was later disputed.
B/ The planet that has the greatest probability for life in the past or now is Mars, but more investigation is required to draw conclusions.
C/ Europa has an ocean under the ice on the surface of the moon, which may contain the chemical combinations required for life to evolve.
D/ Although some of the moons that revolve around Saturn and Jupiter have conditions that might support life, the evidence contradicts this possibility.
E/ Other planetary systems must have life that is similar to that which has evolved on Earth because of the principles of carbon chemistry.
F/ It is too hot for life on the planets near the Sun in the inner solar system and too cold on the planets most removed from the Sun in the outer solar system.