If you listen to the hype, we’re always on the verge of discovering alien life.
Whether it’s coming from a NASA scientist that has just found evidence for running water on Mars, or a YouTube video analysing blurry images of what is almost certain space junk (Helpful Hint: One of these sources is more reliable than the other), you could be forgiven for thinking that we were on the brink of making first contact any day now.
But, in the absence of alien spaceships dropping out of the sky any time soon, many of the kind of people who like to think about this stuff - astrobiologists, physicists, science fiction writers - have been forced to use a combination of educated guessing, computer modelling and a healthy pinch of imagination, to try and build up a picture of what life might look like around the universe.
We've got a pretty good idea of what it looks like under Earth like conditions, largely due to the fact that we're surrounded by it, but that doesn't mean that it couldn't emerge in many weird and wonderful ways in all kinds of environments throughout the universe. Black holes? Gas giants? Even interstellar space? Life will (uh, uh) find a way.