A photo of a visitor in the Search for Life Beyond Earth exhibit at the New York Hall of Science.

Life in Extreme Environments

On Earth, wherever there is life, there is water.

Are there other places in our solar system that might contain water and perhaps life? Discover what scientists have learned about life in extreme environments on Earth and how this suggests what kind of life we look for in our solar system and beyond.

The Search for Life Beyond Earth exhibit includes interactive stories that invite museum visitors to move from one extreme Earth environment to the next. You’ll explore each environment’s unique characteristics and discover one or more organisms that live there. A final link between understanding life on Earth and searching for life beyond may come from remote exploration within the solar system. Such exploration in space has revealed locations that may be similar to extreme environments here on Earth, with liquid water and the potential for life.

Understanding Life on Earth May Help Us Find Life on Other Planets

This exhibition consists of six main sections:

Will We Find Life on Mars?

Mars is our closest planetary neighbor, yet our knowledge of it is limited. Researchers think it offers the best possibility for finding life in our solar system beyond Earth. In this section you can feel a small fragment of a meteorite from Mars and touch scale models of Earth and Mars to understand the difference in temperatures between the two planets. You can control a robotic rover, just like NASA scientists did with the Mars rover. You can also smell different living microbes living in mud, step inside a replica of the Alvin deep sea vehicle, and much more.

Will We Find Life on Europa?

Years of research and surface scanning by satellites have revealed that one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, may be a prime candidate to host extraterrestrial life. Here you can find out what scientists believe is under the icy seas of Europa. Try a simulation that demonstrates the process of warm water rising and mixing with cold water. And work on a puzzle where matching pieces together simulates the puzzle scientists had when retracing Europa’s history.

Will We Find Life on Titan?

Titan is a moon of the planet Saturn, and it is the only moon scientists know to have an atmosphere around it. This may offer a possible view into Earth’s ancient past. Underneath the thick orange atmosphere, researchers believe that methane may flow into deep, cold lakes. This may be what Earth looked like many millions of years ago before life formed. View a digital simulation that shows what it might be like to land on the surface of Titan.

Will We Find Life Beyond Our Solar System?

While the hunt for life on nearby planetary bodies is thriving, our own solar system is not the limit of our study. Technology and research let us look much deeper for life. In this section, you’ll find a cosmic ray detector, play a game where you look deep into space for life, and learn about the information that NASA receives from the Hubble Telescope.

What Is Alive?

Life, as we know it, has many facets, and identifying characteristics of life is important when searching for clues about life on other planets and moons. Test your knowledge of what is alive by examining a series of objects and selecting a “Yes” or “No” to indicate whether you believe the item is alive.

To Find Life, Look for Water

Life here on Earth depends on water. Without water, nothing would survive. The water in our bodies is essential to sustaining our life’s processes. In this section of the exhibition, you can use a Spin-Browser to move through a collection of videos highlighting the beauty of water on Earth. By stepping on a scale, you can find out how many gallons of water are in your body. Then, compare your body water ratio to other species, including a cactus, lizard, mouse, tarantula and a mushroom.


Admission, Directions and Hours

The Search for Life Beyond Earth is free with NYSCI admission and is open during regular museum hours:

  • Monday – Friday, 9:30 am – 5 pm
  • Saturday & Sunday, 10 am – 6 pm

Located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, NY, NYSCI is easily reached from the Grand Central Parkway, Long Island Expressway and the Bronx-Queens Expressway. Parking is available onsite. Or take the NYC subway: #7 train to 111th Street. For more information about travel options, see the directions section on our Admission page.

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Resources and Additional Info
Info for Educators

Educator Guides
Student Worksheets
Virtual Visit

NYSCI’s Mars Rover

Learn about NYSCI’s Mars Rover
Video about the making of NYSCI’s rover
NYSCI’s Mars Rover visits the White House in 2014