Alien life may exist elsewhere in the universe, and now it seems we are in search of finding their existence using new technology. This comes after scientists asked the U.S. Congress Dec. 4 to invest in life beyond Earth.
“This is the first time in human history we have the technological reach to find life on other planets,” Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at MIT, said at a House Committee on Science, Space and Technology hearing last week. “People will look back at us as the [generation] who found Earth-like worlds.”
Members of the science committee expressed enthusiasm for the field’s progress.
“Astrobiology has become a crosscutting theme of all NASA space science endeavors,” and continued funding is important, said Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D., Texas). The Kepler mission has identified more than 3,500 potential planets outside Earth’s solar system, including 10 that are Earth-size and lie within their star’s habitable zone. And the space-based Hubble and Spitzer telescopes recently imaged the atmospheres of an exoplanet directly.
Life on Mars is still a big question after the rover Curiosity found evidence that past conditions on the Red Planet may have supported it. Here on Earth, scientists have found examples of microbes living in the most extreme environments imaginable, from volcanic lakes to glaciers.
Finding life in such unlikely places suggests it could exist in harsh environments on other planets, after 50 years, humanity is now in an era when it can provide data for whether life exists elsewhere in the universe, Mary Voytek, NASA’s head of astrobiology, told members of Congress.
The search ramps up A key part of these efforts will be to look for biological signatures in the atmospheres of other planets.
For example, oxygen doesn’t last long by itself, so the presence of oxygen would indicate living organisms were producing it. Another necessity for life on Earth is water, and scientists just announced they have found signatures of water in the atmospheres of five planets (although they are superhot, Jupiter-size planets). NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) telescope, set to launch in 2017, will search for exoplanets using the transiting method the Kepler mission used to detect planets crossing in front of their host star.