HabitableZone1.jpgAliens; to most, the term is just a far-fetched science fiction idea.  Despite thousands of alien sightings the idea of life on other planets is taken lightly outside of the science community.   It is widely believed that "we are the only ones out here".  To prove this notion wrong, many scientists have been looking at other planets that could possibly support life.   If there are enough planets out there that are similar enough to ours, alien life is very probable.

Search for life has been focused on our immediate solar system in recent history but scientists have figured that expanding our search to other universes may prove to be more lucrative.  "NASA is pursuing the search for life elsewhere in the Solar System, but some of us think that looking for life on planets around other stars may actually be the best way to answer this question."  This is a quote form James Kasting, one of Penn State's geoscience professors, regarding the question about the existence of extra terrestrial life.  Kasting has led research on the habitable zones of planets and recently has broadened these zones.  This broadening of zones will lead to the inclusion of many more planets that could harbor aliens.  Many other scientists have begun searching for life elsewhere in the universe as well.

NASA launched the Kepler Spacecraft in 2009 in search for earthlike planets in the Milky Way galaxy.  The spacecraft used a telescope pointed at a point in the galaxy for four years and collected data from the stars' brightness.  Every time the star dimmed it would indicate a planet orbiting by it.  Much of this data has yet to be analyzed but many planets have been found to be in the habitable zones of their solar systems.

What astrologists and scientists look for in planets is whether they are of rocky nature and fall in the habitable zone of their respective solar systems.  This zone is the distance from the sun at which liquid water can exist.  There are hundreds of planets we have discovered that fall into these categories.  These exclude gaseous planets like Jupiter and planets that are either too cold or too hot for liquid water.

Earlier in November, NASA discovered 833 new planet candidates that could harbor extra terrestrial life.  This brought the total for discovered earthlike planets to 3,538.  This number is just a fraction of the possible worlds out in the universe, most of which we will never see.  Being that the Kepler Spacecraft only viewed a portion of the universe and only some of the data has been analyzed, the estimate for earthlike planets is staggering.

According to an article in USA Today, there are upwards of 40 billion earthlike planets in our galaxy.  Scientists say that this many planets can lead us to believe that the chance for alien life is promising.  For every earth like planet there is, there is another possibility for life to begin or exist.  Also, our universe contains tens of billions of galaxies, each of which having similar amounts of stars and planet as our own Milky Way.  By logic, we can venture to claim that there are not only 40 billion earthlike planets, but rather billions of billions of them in our universe.

This doesn't necessarily correlate to there being alien space ships flying around blowing up planets as depicted in many sci-fi movies.  Rather the concept of life could be as simple as bacteria or plant and fungus life.  These forms of life are much less complex and are more likely to exist.  Simpler forms of life are less delicate and are less sensitive to harsher living conditions than what we have here on earth.  Still, the idea that life could exist elsewhere is highly plausible.  I, along with many others, am waiting for the day when we can finally proclaim that life truly exists elsewhere.  Until then we can assume there is life based on the data collected from NASA's telescopes and the analysis of that information by the top scientists on our life-bearing planet.

USA Today Article

Kepler Spacecraft

PSU research on habitable zones

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