By Grace Helmke
Our universe stretches billions of lightyears, and continues to constantly expand. It consists of trillions of galaxies, and houses upwards of 700 quintillion planets. There has long been speculation that somewhere out in this massive expanse of darkness and light, there may be civilizations; some possibly intelligent enough to surpass us in our technological endeavors. But is this just another conspiracy theory, or is there scientific truth behind this notion?
The Milky Way alone is littered with hundreds of billions of stars, each accompanied by multitudes of planets residing in their smaller solar systems. Among these planets within our galactic neighborhood, tens of billions would be located in the “habitable zone” of their star. The planet would have to be close enough from the star for liquid water to exist, but far enough away that the water wouldn’t evaporate. This means that a planet’s climate would all but mimic that of earth’s. Leading to the scientific speculation that life could exist here. While we aren’t sure how many of these planets support life, we now know that it’s possible.
Scientists have discovered the existence of more than 4,000 exoplanets (or planets outside the solar system) that have the potential to harbor life. This topic of exoplanets is an exceptionally fast growing field that will most likely remain an important scientific discipline, for decades to come, due to the fact that these planets are not just celestial objects, but the potential homes of extraterrestrial life.
Recently, scientists at the SETI institute (The Search for Extraterrestrial Life) have been going to great lengths aiming to discover life on other planets. They attempt to try and find traces of life in space by searching for technosignatures, which according to Phys.org, are detectable signs of past or present technology used on other planets. This would mean that an extraterrestrial civilization would be intelligent and advanced enough to be creating a society based around the development of technology.
When taking into account the sheer size of our universe, and the fact that it has been around for so many years, it is probable that the complicated biochemistry that created life, then intelligent beings on earth, occurred more than once in the history of the universe. Suggesting that humanity is an anomaly defies scientific reasoning and the mediocrity principle, which states that it is probable that our solar system is more likely a common event than an atypical phenomenon.
In the near future, with space missions being outlined, technology becoming increasingly advanced, and great steps being made in science, it is likely that we will find concrete evidence of other life in the universe, whether it be small or large.
For more information please visit:
- Space.com: https://www.space.com/25303-how-many-galaxies-are-in-the-universe.html#:~:text=While%20estimates%20among%20different%20experts,Science%20Institute%20in%20Baltimore%2C%20Maryland.
- Phys.com: https://phys.org/news/2020-06-intelligent-life-planets-technosignatures-clues.html
- Nasa exoplanet exploration: https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/faq/6/how-many-exoplanets-are-there/#:~:text=To%20date%2C%20more%20than%204%2C000,not%20the%20exoplanet%20is%20real