NASA is certain: We are not alone in the universe!
Some of NASA’s top minds believe we’re not alone in the universe. And they think we’ll find out for sure soon. Speaking at a public panel on Tuesday in Washington D.C., NASA scientists discussed the likelihood of finding organic life in our solar system. Given the surprising number of oceans residing throughout our celestial home, they say “it’s definitely not an if, it’s a when.”
I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade, and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years. We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology,” said NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan.
We are not talking about little green men,” she said.
However, Stofan isn’t alone. Scientists studying other worlds, both in our solar system and orbiting distant stars, have also predicted that we’re likely to find out a lot about the existence of extraterrestrial life in the coming decades.
With new telescopes coming online within the next five or 10 years, we’ll really have a chance to figure out whether we’re alone in the universe. For the first time in human history, we might have the capability to do this,” said Lisa Kaltenegger, an astronomer and director of Cornell University’s search for distant habitable planets.
NASA researchers say these revelations upend the earlier idea that, to find life, we need to look for planets within stars’ “habitable zones.” That theory suggests that in order for a space rock to harbor life, it needs to be at a certain “perfect” distance from a warm body (like the Earth from the sun). That way, the temperature is just right so that water can exist on the planet in liquid form.
But on Europa, liquid water exists even though the frigid moon is more than 400 million miles away from our star. It’s because the gravitational pull from Jupiter jerks the satellite around, causing enough friction and energy to heat up the liquid beneath the surface. Thus, the moon’s water can remain as a liquid when it’s so far from a light source.
We now recognize that habitable zones are not just around stars, they can be around giant planets too. We are finding out the solar system is really a soggy place,” according to NASA.
We won’t be wading in these waters anytime soon, but with NASA’s upcoming mission to Europa, the agency may get the answers it needs to determine if alien microbes are living next door.
There are a number of reasons to be somewhat expectant about the possibility of extraterrestrial life. One is that we keep finding new evidence that water is replete in our own solar system: subterranean oceans on the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, crater pools on Mercury, signs of a Martian Ocean that may have once been over a mile deep.
Another reason is that we keep finding planets outside our solar system that look like Earth—so far scientists have pinpointed over 4,000 that are rocky and mild in climate. Such candidates are mostly identified by the Kepler Space Telescope, a task that will become easier after the new James Webb Space Telescope launches in 2018.
via Space and Vox