Could Life Exist On A Planet Like Arrakis From ‘Dune’?

A planetary scientist compares Arrakis to real planets and analyzes whether life could exist on such a sandy, scorching-hot world.

Listen to Universe of Art on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsStitcherTuneIn or your favorite podcasting app.

“Dune: Part II” is one of the year’s most highly anticipated films, and it picks up where the first film left off: with Paul Atreides escaping into the desert on the planet Arrakis. It’s a scorching-hot world that’s covered in dunes, and home to giant, deadly sandworms.

Obviously “Dune” and its setting are fictional, but could there be a real planet that resembles Arrakis? And if so, could it sustain life?

Ira talks with Dr. Mike Wong, astrobiologist and planetary scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, about what Arrakis’ atmosphere is like, the search for life in the universe, and what sci-fi films get wrong—and right—about alien planets.

Universe of Art is hosted and produced by D. Peterschmidt, who also wrote the music. The original segment was produced by Rasha Aridi. Our show art was illustrated by Abelle Hayford. Support for Science Friday’s science and arts coverage comes from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 

Do you have science-inspired art you’d like to share with us for a future episode? Send us an email or a voice memo to

Further Reading

  • For more science stories from the silver screen, sign up for our newsletter “Science Goes To The Movies.”
  • For more stories about how science and art intersect, subscribe to the Universe of Art podcast.

Meet the Writers

About Rasha Aridi

Rasha Aridi is a producer for Science Friday. She loves stories about weird critters, science adventures, and the intersection of science and history.

About D. Peterschmidt

D. Peterschmidt is a producer, host of the podcast Universe of Art, and composes music for Science Friday’s podcasts. Their D&D character is a clumsy bard named Chip Chap Chopman.

Explore More

‘Dune’ Pic: What’s this Mouse Got to Do With Paul Muad’Dib?

Ecologist Ned Dochtermann explains why the kangaroo mouse makes a perfect namesake for Paul Muad'Dib, the hero in Frank Herbert's "Dune."

Read More