The Search For Extraterrestrial Life (Aliens) 👽
Is There Life Out There In The Solar System And Beyond?
When you look up to the sky at night and see those millions of stars, knowing there are billions more you cannot see in our own galaxy alone, do you think that it’s possible that there is life out there? Isn’t it probable that we are not alone? In some small way aren’t we all hoping we aren’t alone and that the vast expanse of space isn’t empty of life? Mathematics alone kind of proves there must be life somewhere, but we will come to that later.
Accounts From Ancient Times
We have been fascinated by the thought of extraterrestrial life from the beginning of time, when men looked up to the sky and seeing the vastness beyond, imagined the existence of Gods and the Angels. Do you think that you can find the evidence of aliens in the Bible? If you don’t think you can, you might be surprised. The Book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament describes seeing what sounds like a UFO or UFOs with winged, humanoid people inside. “A big cloud that spits fire with a glowing metal in the centre and what seemed to be four wheels at the bottom intersecting a fifth one, all zooming, blindingly around before Ezekiel”. Sounds like a rocket or UFO to me!
The Hindu epic, Mahabharata has references to alien technology too. The description of the weapons and the flying chariots sounds like they came right out of a Sci-fi movie, with energy weapons and fiery laser shows. Cool, isn’t it?
There are of course legends and myths surrounding the origins of ancient structures such as the Aztec Lines, Egyptian Pyramids and Easter Island stone figures. Some speculate that alien visitors must have helped these ancient peoples construct these monuments as they are too big, precise and impressive for the ancients with their primitive technology to have constructed themselves!
From our Ancestors to more Modern Times!
More recently, in a ranch North West of Roswell there was a mysterious object that crashed from the heavens which the onlookers described as a “flying disk”. Later the U.S. military cordoned off the area leading to one of the most controversial cover-up stories in recent history. In doing so the legend of Roswell and Area 51 was born! And then there are the Crop Circles that mysteriously 'pop-up' overnight in fields around the world. Humans have always been fascinated with the idea of visitors from other worlds, hence they feature heavily as themes of blockbuster movies (think E.T., Close encounters of the Third Kind, Mars Attacks, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Contact, Interstellar etc etc) and television shows (I’m thinking of Superman, Star Trek, 3rd Rock from the Sun, the X-Files the list goes on) have dominated our screens ever since!
Why We Think There Could Be Extraterrestrials?!
Humans naturally like to explore by their nature, so knowing life began on Earth we wonder and think it’s possible that life also rose on another body somewhere in the solar system or around another star in the galaxy. Life forms can take a number of forms, they can range from simple single cell organisms to complex advanced beings.
The Drake Equation calculates the probability of finding an alien civilization intelligent enough to send us a message. And without going into the details, the probability is found to be quite high!
So, I hear you wonder, if the chances are so high that an advanced intelligent civilization exists, then where are they? Why haven’t we heard from them already? Well, the Fermi Paradox or Fermi’s Paradox asks us the same question. If the probability of the existence of intelligent life is so high, Fermi famously asked: “where is everybody?” Why haven’t they visited us? In regards to the NASA SETI program, it’s referred to as “the Great Silence” because we haven’t heard from them either! Part of the problem is the vastness of Space!
The Search For Simple Life Forms!
• NASA Is a Believer. They are looking for extraterrestrial life in two ways. One is to look for the planets or satellites in our solar system that can support life and explore them or scan deep space for any messages or signs from our alien friends.
• NASA believes that if there is liquid water present, then life as we know it might exist - even in our solar system. However, if it turns out to be possible for life to be different from the carbon-based life on Earth, maybe Saturn's moon Titan is where we might find it as there are lakes of liquid hydrocarbons on its surface! There's so much still to learn and explore in deep space!
• NASA has identified several locations in the solar system where liquid water may exist and has missions planned to investigate. For example, the Cassini orbiter discovered that Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus likely has an ocean of salty water under its frozen surface!
• It’s also likely that several of Jupiter’s icy moons, Europa and Callisto, may also harbour liquid oceans beneath their thick ice sheets. NASA plans to send a spacecraft called the Europa Clipper to study Europa while the European Space Agency (ESA) also plans to send a probe to study them called the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer and even become the first spacecraft to orbit one of them!
• The planet Mars is also an ideal candidate for potential supporting microbial life either in the past or even right now! Many orbiters and landers have been sent to investigate and try to find any evidence. The Mars 2020 Rover specifically look for signs of ancient microbial life on the Red Planet. Imagine if they found life there!! That would be the biggest discovery in all of human history!!
Search for Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life
SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) is a term that describes a number of programs with the aim to listen, record and analyze signals that are coming from outer space and discover if any has come from an alien species. Scientists use large radio dishes such as the Arecibo Observatory to conduct the searches with many of the public from around the world allowing their computers to help scan, as we speak, for signals from outer space. You too can be a part of SETI if you want!
Whether it’s microbial life in our own solar system, or intelligent extraterrestrials from other star systems, as the X-Files says, “the truth is out there”.