Many space scientists are optimistic. They assume that they themselves will have to wait to find the signs of distant life, in the best case it will be within the next few years.
“We live in an infinite universe, with an infinite number of stars and planets. And it is obvious to many of us that we cannot be the only intelligent beings. We now have the technology and capabilities to answer the question of whether we are alone in space,” Professor Catherine Heymans, director of the Royal Scottish Observatory in Edinburgh, told the BBC.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope recently revealed signs of possible life outside the solar system. On a planet called K2-18b, 120 light-years away from Earth, he found traces of a molecule of dimethyl sulfide, an organic compound produced by living organisms. According to astronomers, the planet is at a favorable distance from its star to host water, the basis for the development of life as we know it on Earth.
Whether the information about life on K2-18b will be confirmed should be seen in the next year or so.
Professor Nikku Madhusudhan of Cambridge University’s Institute of Astronomy, who is leading the study of the planet, told the BBC that if the result is positive, it will radically change the way we think about the search for life.
Discoveries of the James Webb Space Telescope
The Webb Space Telescope was created in collaboration between NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency. It is the most modern and powerful space telescope ever created by mankind. He observes the universe in the infrared spectrum, which is hidden from the human eye. He can thus see objects, processes and events that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
“If we find signs of life on the very first planet we investigate, it raises the possibility that life is common in the universe,” said the astronomer, who said such a significant change in our understanding of the universe would occur within the next five years.
If his team doesn’t confirm life on K2-18b, they have at least a dozen other planets with similarly suitable conditions lined up to investigate. And even if nothing is found, the research will provide important insights into the search for life on such planets.
At the same time, the project of the professor from Cambridge is only one of many that are currently taking place around the world. Some focus on the planets of the solar system, others on much more distant places in space.
New technological tools should also help with new discoveries. For example, the mentioned Webb Space Telescope is very powerful, but it also has its limits. Because of glare, it is unable to discern planets in the distant universe comparable in size to Earth (K2-18b is eight times larger) or so close to their parent stars.
Interview with Jiří Grygar
In an interview with the editor-in-chief of Seznam Zpráv Jiří Kubík, the legend of Czech astronomy says that the flights of living people into space should be stopped.
Therefore, NASA plans to build a new observatory in the 1930s equipped with a modern light shield that would minimize the light from the star around which the monitored planet orbits. This will make it possible to better record the atmosphere of planets similar to ours.
Better research into possible life in space should also be facilitated by an extremely large telescope located in the Chilean desert. It has the largest mirror of any instrument built, with a diameter of 39 meters, so it can detect much more detail in planetary atmospheres than its predecessors.
In our solar system, the focus is on one of Jupiter’s moons called Europa. Beneath its icy surface is an ocean that spews plumes of water vapor into space. Two missions, one from NASA and the other from the European Space Agency, are expected to arrive this month in the early 1930s.