I’ve always imagined that one day I’d get home, turn on the news, and see this big developing news story that evidence of life beyond our solar system had been discovered. It’s typically the stuff of movies and comic books, but recently NASA’s chief scientist, Ellen Stofan, predicted that signs of alien life will be discovered by 2025 with even stronger evidence for extraterrestrials in the years that follow.
It’s easy to start imagining scenarios like you’ve seen in movies like “Contact” or “Signs,” but before we get too excited, Stofan brings us back to Earth when she says, “[we] are not talking about little green men. We are talking about little microbes.” Over the course of an hour long NASA presentation, information regarding recent discoveries illuminated the fact that we are getting closer to figuring out where signs of life outside our solar system may be found.
“We know where to look. We know how to look,” Stofan said. “In most cases we have the technology, and we’re on a path to implementing it. And so I think we’re definitely on the road.”
Jeffery Newmark, NASA’s interim director of heliophysics agrees, “[it’s] definitely not an if, it’s a when.”
They discussed that recent findings suggest focusing on “habitable zones”–a zone that provides a temperature that is not too hot or too cold for liquid water–around stars may be too limiting. “We now recognize that habitable zones are not just around stars, they can be around giant planets too,” said Jim Green said, director of planetary science at NASA. “We are finding out the solar system is really a soggy place.”
The NASA panel agrees that life beyond our solar system will be found by our next generation of scientists and space explorers with the hope that it will be much sooner.