Home > Space Exploration > Odds of Alien Life’s Discovery in Next Decade Takes Sharp Turn North

Odds of Alien Life’s Discovery in Next Decade Takes Sharp Turn North

26-Jun-08 11:35 pm EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

All of us – for perhaps as long ago as 30,000 years (or longer) have been waiting for an answer to that question: are we alone.  This week, we seem to be edging tantalizingly close to a final answer to that question, which is leaning heavily in the direction of "no, there are others".

Above is an image of the galaxy NGC-1300, some 69 million light-years (ly) away.  It’s a "barred-spiral" class galaxy, of the same type as our own.  (Some readers may need to be reminded that our Sun and its planets are part of such a larger construct, which is made of trillions of stars both smaller and larger than our own Sun, each star ringed with planets – some rock, gas or both.)

Early in the week, it was astronomers and cosmologists at MIT and other renowned institutions of higher learning revealed that the ongoing survey of nearby stars is starting to show evidence of smaller, rocky bodies approaching the size of Earth (or Venus which is 0.98 the mass and gravity of Earth – take your pick) have been located in our galactic neighborhood. 

By Thursday evening (EDT), there was more news that seemed to be upping the odds of finding alien life in the near-term.  The Phoenix Lander, recently landed on Mars, to the jubilation of folks at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), had completed and transmitted back to Earth a series of soil analyses which indicated that the soil – at least that at the Martian arctic circle – very likely had all the basic elements required for plant life commonly found here on Earth.  Particularly interesting was the discovery of that key ingredient – water, late last week:

So with it seeming to be just a matter of time before scientists find a rocky, Earth-sized rock in a neighboring star’s "green-zone" coupled with the discovery of Martian soil inundated with water and nutrients that favour plant growth: I think it’s probably a safe bet that there is, indeed must be life elsewhere in the universe somewhere.  So-called "intelligent" life – or animal-like life that pursues tools and technology like us might yet be a rarity.  At the very least, the news seems to favour a future for humanity involving colonization of the galaxy with humans, provided we don’t blast our civilization off the face of the Earth first.

* This is a great article which discusses (in relatively plain English) the processes and toils behind the search for Earth-sized planets around nearby stars.  The Internet is home to all kinds of lists of discovered planets around neighboring stars, although I’m still waiting for someone to point me in the direction of a Java-based (or using some like-minded technology) 3-D map of stars out to 100ly, 500ly, and 1000ly.  Would build such a thing myself using Microsoft’s Direct3D API if I had time; might even take up the project when I’m on vacation this summer….

Categories: Space Exploration
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