* This article is beyond what I usually talk about but I felt I could share about this subject here since my curiosity about space is like another part of me. And my recent learning process on astrobiology and other topics related to space exploration allow me to talk about what stand I keep on space exploration and SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) in an easy-to-understand manner.
First things first, SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) is a collective acronym for the search on alien life. And right off, aliens aren’t necessarily supposed to be those green little men creatures. Let’s just say aliens can be like animals you’ve never seen before. With observations through the different forms of life on Earth we conclude that: Life… well, life is anything that lives. But life uses energy (mostly constructively) and is able to produce more of it’s kind. Life grows. And life adapts to changes over time in the environment. We assume that this is universal. So according to the classification of life, life is really very diverse and literally a lot of stuff counts under the term “life”. From viruses and bacteria to all plants and animals, the smallest insects, the largest whales, the smallest fish and the microscopic fungi are all life.
As the search for exoplanets (planets that orbit stars apart from the sun, in different star systems) gets better and better every passing day, we are getting more and more confirmed exoplanets in sight. Literally places to live which are like light years away! As of 1 September 2021, there are 4,834 confirmed exoplanets, with a fraction of them Earth like and yet another small fraction of them probably habitable for humans and life to form and evolve. This is great research! Finding out places for life among the stars. Amazing. Literally out of the world. And these are good numbers too. They signify hope.
With all these suspect cases for habitability, optimistic researches believe just through chance and probability that life surely may have formed in some of these confirmed exoplanets and millions and billions of probable other exoplanets orbiting the vast number of stars in the universe. Earth is nothing unique. It doesn’t even stand out in the solar system, apart from the fact that it is the only planet to have liquid water on it’s surface in the solar system, but apart from that it’s pretty normal. And across all these exoplanets, I do think, it is highly probable that life may have formed and evolved at least in some places.
But what kind of life? We aren’t interested in being friends with bacteria on other planets are we? No! But even bacteria would be cool to find out about, because in the end bacteria is life too. And somehow, somewhere believe it or not, you’re related to the vast bacteria spread on Earth. Seriously, no kidding. But still, bacteria aren’t “intelligent” enough to communicate with us so many light years away. We want to be socializing with those green creatures! We want to be looking for intelligent life.
That is what SETI does. It looks for intelligent life using the most high-tech radio and electromagnetic signals of today. There’s a lot of detail into it, but simply, radio waves and electromagnetic waves are the most efficient ways of communicating across the galaxy. So, we’re trying to detect radio waves sent out by other intelligent creatures throughout the galaxy, which is more significant and relevant because the time taken even for light to travel across the universe is a long, long time, which slows communication.
Overall, I think there is hope. Hope to finally be able to correctly answer the question of “Is there life out there among the stars?” which has fascinated us since forever.