Two esteemed scientists sat before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in Washington, D. C., this week and told the congressional panel that not only did extraterrestrial life almost certainly exist but that proof of such life will likely be found within the next 20 years. Of course, they qualified the latter prediction with the fact it couldn't be done without funding.
The Daily Mail reported May 22 that Dr. Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer at the SETI (Searc for Extraterrestrial Life) Institute in California, and Dr. Dan Wethimer, Directory of SETI Research at the University of California Berkeley, were more than prepared to answer Congress' questions about extraterrestrial life. They were also quick to assure the House Committee that it wasn't a matter of if, but when, alien life will be discovered somewhere outside the Earth's atmosphere. The two men were equally adamant that proper funding would be necessary for the search to be successful within that time frame.
Shostak, in his written testimony, noted that the number of detected exoplanets was growing at an ever-increasing rate. One out of every five planets in the universe, he told the panel, will be roughly Earth-sized and in a habitable region around a star.
"This number could be too large by perhaps a factor of two or three," he admitted, "but even so it implies that the Milky Way is home to 10 to 80 billion cousins of Earth."
"There is, in other words," he asserted, "more than adequate cosmic real estate for extraterrestrial life, including intelligent life."
The conclusion? "At least a half-dozen other worlds (besides Earth) that might have life are in our solar system. The chances of finding it, I think, are good, and if that happens, it’ll happen in the next 20 years, depending on the financing,” Shostak said, according to Discovery News.
Wethimer agreed, bolstering Shostak's optimistic numbers by noting, "It would be bizarre if we are alone."
Wethimer also admonished narrow thinkers, stating that a "cramped mind" did not "wonder what other life is out there."
Shostak outlined a three-pronged search array. Besides perhaps discovering extraterrestrial life on some distant world revolving around an alien star via certain atmospheric conditions indicative of life, the search also involves looking closer to home. There is still hope that some form of microbial life might exist on Mars. And with various moons in the Solar System having atmospheres and/or trapped liquid deposits, there is a chance that alien life might exist on one or more of them.
The third method that might detect alien life within the next couple decades would be actively listening for extraterrestrial transmissions, that which is SETI's primary mission. The idea is that an advanced civilization might transmit intentionally, as humanity has done, or unintentionally (via leaked radio waves, for example) signals out into space, signals that might be captured by an alert listener.
The men were quick to put the committee's collective mind at ease that they weren't advocating on behalf of UFO fanatics, either. Their appeal was from a basic scientific standpoint.
"I don’t think that that would be something all the governments would have managed to keep a secret," Shostak said. "If they were really here I think everyone would know that."
But it helps to remain optimistic, the astronomers concluded. “The fact that we haven’t found anything means nothing,” Shostak added. “We’ve only just begun to search.”
And searching requires funding...