Do you often dream about extra-terrestrial life outside earth? NASA researchers are engaged in proving your dreams to be true. Many researchers trust we are not alone in the universe. It’s possible, they say, that life could have arisen on at least some of the billions of planets thought to exist in our galaxy alone — just as it did here on planet Earth. This simple question about our place in the Universe is one that may be replied by scientific inquiries.
Ex- astronaut and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden set the tenor of the hour-long conversation about how NASA scheduled to look for life on other planets in his preliminary comments.
“Do we have confidence in that there is life outside Earth?” he asked. “I would risk to say that most of my co-workers here today say it is unlikely that in the limitless massiveness of the universe we humans stand alone.”
He added that while he was in space back in 1990, he did not come across any extra-terrestrial life forms, but he did look for them – really hard, and all the time. Mars and a number of moons in our solar system have been the focus of the hunt for alien life for years.
Thanks to data gathered by the Kepler Space Telescope, launched in 2009, researchers now estimate that almost every star in our galaxy has at least one planet orbiting it. Kepler has vividly changed what we know about exo-planets, discovering most of the more than 5,000 possible exoplanets, of which more than 1,700 have been definite.
Kepler also discovered the first Earth-size planet to orbit in the “habitable zone” of a star, the area where liquid water can pool on the surface.
“What we didn’t know five years ago is that maybe 10 to 20 percent of stars around us have Earth-size planets in the inhabitable zone,” says Matt Mountain, director and Webb telescope researcher at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018 will help researchers see whether any of those billions of planets have the right chemical impression to propose they harbour life.
“With the James Webb, we have the first capability of finding life on other planets, but we have to get fortunate; we have to beat the probabilities,” says Sara Seager, a planetary researcher at MIT.
Past 10 years has seen the discovery of more and more super Earths, which are rocky planets that are greater and heavier than Earth.
Finding smaller planets, the Earth twins, is a harder challenge because they yield weaker signals. Technology to identify and image these Earth-like planets is being advanced now for use with the future space telescopes. The capability to detect alien life may still be years or more away, but the hunt is underway.
This post was written by Usman Abrar. To contact the writer write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Facebook