12 Sep 2016

The search for life on other planets

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:36 pm on 12 September 2016
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Photo: Wikicommons

Some of the world's top astronomers gathered on Great Barrier Island over the weekend to ask the big questions, such as is there life out there?

Among them was US planetary scientist and astronomer Faith Vilas, who believes humans will find a planet capable of harbouring life such as ours within the next 20 years.

She says the effort going into that search is substantial.

“We are spending a great deal of time and money to find life beyond Earth. Finding intelligent life beyond Earth is the Holy Grail of astronomers.”

The technology to make such a search possible has only been around for the last 35 to 40 years, and in the last 15 years that technology had advanced rapidly, she says.    

But is there any evidence life might exist in another galaxy?

Most people in her field believe intelligent life will be found, she says.

“You bet we’re gonna find life on other planets. I can’t believe that we won’t find intelligent life on other planets, I would be so stunned if we didn’t.

“I’m sure we will find other beings that have a capability of intelligence and the ability to communicate somehow with us – if they want to!”

Faith Vilas is project scientist at the United States Planetary Science Institute and also program director of the US National Science Foundation in charge of Solar System and Exoplanets grants.

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