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We WILL discover life beyond Earth within 15 years - Here's HOW and WHY

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 16th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Within 10 to 15 years, we will locate life on a planet beyond Earth. This is the dramatic prediction made by an astronomer to Mother Jones, speaking about advances in imaging technology. It is a sentiment also shared by many other astronomers.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - One of the most profound questions of our age may be answered definitively within our lifetime. Is there life beyond Earth?

According to most astronomers, the answer is a definite yes. The universe is so vast, and planets appear to be so abundant that it's almost inconceivable to think that Earth is the only planet that hosts life. However, there still exists no good evidence to demonstrate that such life actually exists.

St. Dominic de Guzman, patron saint of astronomers.

In science, this is a problem because nothing can be claimed without scientific evidence.

Naturally, astronomers have been working on ways to answer this question. A fast answer to the question should come within 10 to 15 years, according to Frank Marchis, who works for the SETI institute and is a member of a planet-hunting team that expects to use the Gemini Telescope in Chile to image planets around other stars.

The telescope is very powerful. While the Hubble Space Telescope has a 2-meter diameter, with larger being better, the Gemini Telescope has an 8 meter diameter. Within coming years some will have diameters as large as 30 meters. These telescopes use lasers and computers to adjust mirrors hundreds of times per second to account for atmospheric distortion. The end result are images that are as sharp as any taken in space, but with even higher resolution than the Hubble.

Using these telescopes, astronomers will actually be able to see individual planets around distant stars. They will see those planets with enough resolution that they will be able to analyze light passing through their atmospheres. Using this analysis, they can search for biomarkers - signs of life, in the atmosphere.

Thanks to recent studies, we know where most all of the close planets are. We know which stars have planets orbiting in "habitable zones" around their parent stars, so we know precisely where to look. All we need now are the tools to see, and those are already under construction.

Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that within the next 10 to 15 years we will answer the question of whether or not the universe teams with life.

Although astronomers are nearly certain that life must exist somewhere out there, it remains a question of abundance. We may discover, perhaps to our loneliness, that there is zero life within hundreds to perhaps thousands of light years around Earth. If this is the case, then we will know that we are more exceptional and unique than ever imagined.

However, if we do find signs of life, then we will answer in the affirmative an ancient question about our place in the universe. It will invite new questions about God, our purpose, and the meaning of life. Although it should be clear that the Catholic Church has already provided correct answers to these fundamental questions.


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