posted on Jun, 18 2004 @ 12:20 PM
AIM TO DISCOVER
IN 25 YEARS
TOLEDO, Spain (Mar 13, 1996 1:21 p.m. EST) - Scientists
believe they could discover life outside the solar system
within the next 25 years.
"Yes, definitely, there's life out there," Mike Kaplan,
director of U.S. space agency NASA's Origins program, told
Reuters during a meeting of astronomers in Toledo.
"I don't think we're alone."
"We'll take some time to contact them, but one day we will
meet them and we will be surprised because they will be very
different from us," Kaplan said Tuesday.
"Within a maximum of 25 years, it will be possible to discover
life outside Earth," Kaplan said.
"Planet hunters" from across the world have gathered in
this historic Spanish city to discuss infrared interferometry,
a technology which will help the search for life outside the
"This is the first time that projects are being conceived
that will allow us to solve in around 20 years questions that
humankind has been asking for centuries," Kaplan said.
Last October Swiss astronomers detected a planet outside
the solar system for the first time. Shortly afterwards, American
scientists discovered two other planets.
Astronomers meeting in Toledo, excited by the discoveries,
say the question is no longer whether life can be discovered
on other planets but simply when it can be done.
"For the first time, it's not a dream, it's just a question
of time," said Kaplan, whose Origins program aims to study
the origins of the universe, the formation of planets and
the existence of life outside the solar system.
"Life on other planets, if not identical, will be very similar
to that on Earth," leading Spanish biologist Juan Oro told
a news conference.
Traditional telescopes, of which NASA's Hubble Space Telescope
is the most powerful, cannot contribute to the search because
the light from the stars drowns out that of the planets which
orbit near them.
The infrared interferometer, 40 times more powerful than
Hubble, would be capable of determining through infrared rays
whether newly discovered planets have the necessary conditions,
like water and oxygen, to shelter life.
Both NASA and the European Space Agency have separately
started to develop infrared technology. Both say international
cooperation is needed for such a project.
ESA in February unveiled the first photographs taken by
its Infrared Space Observatory, which can see through dense
NASA estimates the budget for building its interferometer
at $200 million a year for a period of 10 years. Europeans
and Americans agree the project inaugurates a new era for
"Discovering life out there would change everything: philosophy,
religion...and would make us feel humbler because we would
find out that we're not alone and we're not that special,"
"It's the beginning of a new era of explorations, a new
age of Galileo, and what's exciting about it is that it's