It’s been the big question ever since humankind walked on the moon, are we alone in the universe? Telescopes, probes, and signals have been trained on distant planets, and one of the biggest investigations in NASA today is whether life exists on Mars.
Red Dwarf Stars
An institute called SETI is trying to figure that out, using telescopes that survey red dwarf stars. These stars are the most likely to support life as they are very stable and last for generations, as well as the fact that they are very common.
In addition, the stars inflict different negative traits on the planets that orbit them, and the changes in intensity can each impact the search for life in hundreds of different combinations. By studying as many as they can, scientists can analyze every combination to find the ones that give the best chance at life.
Several of these negative traits include tidal heating, which can cause various problems for the planet’s surface as well as temperature differences. If one side of the planet is facing the sun and the other is facing away from it, then one side will always be hot and the second cold.
In addition, the red light would make plants appear black in human eyes, and water absorbs red energy which is harmful to plant life but could also cool the planet down.
Looking for Signals
Another program SETI is using is called optical SETI, which scans the entire night sky for any signals, both visual and auditory, that other civilizations can use to show their presence. By scanning for these signals and pinpointing the origin, alien species with technology similar to ours could be found.
Some radio waves have even been picked up by certain SETI satellites from an object known as FRB 121102. Around 15 signals have been reported from this small object and the repetition has allowed scientists to pinpoint the origin. Those signals are 3 billion light years away from Earth.
If that sounds like a lot, don’t worry because it is! It’s very far away, and because of the distance, the energy that is being sent to earth is extremely powerful. Some scientists even say that that energy is enough to completely run humanity for close to ten trillion years. However, we still don’t know what is creating the radio signals.
Some say that nature is producing these bursts somehow, especially since the galaxy that FRB 121102 is producing is smaller than average and the radio bursts are quite common in the rest of the galaxy. The only thing uncommon about all this is that the bursts are being repeated.
The Search Continues
SETI is still looking for intelligent life as they try to help answer the question of whether or not we are alone in the cosmos, and they seek to both understand and share their knowledge about the answers to those questions to the rest of the scientific community.
Then maybe we can find extraterrestrial life within our lifetime. The question is what do we do with that information?