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Astronomers say they are on the verge of finding planets like Earth orbiting other stars, a key step in determining if we are alone in the universe.
"The fundamental question is: are we alone? For the first time, there's an optimism that sometime in our lifetimes we're going to get to the bottom of that," said Simon "Pete" Worden, an astronomer who heads Nasa's Ames Research Centre.
"If I were a betting man, which I am, I would bet we're not alone -- there is a lot of life."
Even the Roman Catholic Church has held scientific conferences about the prospect of extraterrestrial life, including a meeting last November.