I can’t imagine that there is a single human being, no matter what their circumstances, who hasn’t looked out at the night sky and wondered what –or who–is out there? And many of us, I’m sure, have also wondered if there is anyone looking back at us and thinking the exact same thing. This was a recurrent theme for me as a star gazing child and remains with me today–except I haven’t considered the second half of that question in quite some time. Until now. Apparently there are a group of researchers–based on the premise of 2 astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research I Gottingen and McMaster University in Canada ( my home and native land:) ) – who are not only wondering if there are any extra-terrestrial astronomers looking back at us but are proposing that we should be pointing our telescopes at a very specific area of the sky where our planet would be visible to distant observers who might be searching for us. Or someone other than themselves. A recent article that I read on the EarthSky website ( their newsletter is very accessible and chalked full of current research and discoveries in this area and highly recommend it) lays it out nicely. Simply put: seeing as one of our main methods of searching for exoplanets outside of our solar system is to observe the dip in a star’s light when it transits ( passes in front of ) its star, it just makes sense ( when you think about it ) to focus our search on that specific area of the sky that could reside in Earth’s transit zone ( some 100. 000 stars according to the article). Of course, this brings me back to a point that will come up frequently in this discussion and that is the definition of “life”. It’s generally very broad –except in this case–it would be pretty specific. Any “life” that could detect our presence and send us a message would have technology and therefore be that rarest of commodities –intelligent life. As intelligent as us, at the least –and perhaps more even more intelligent than us. Now that is a concept to consider —what could we learn from them? What would be the first question we would to ask? For many–and for most people of faith–it might be “Do you believe in God? “or….what ( or who) is God? Might not be the best way to start off an introduction with such a lofty and existential question and we might want to stick to the usual “we come in peace” and then take it from there. What would you ask?
Reflecting on Edgar Mitchell’s passing
10 February 2016
Breakthrough Initiatives/ Listening and now looking for other life
13 April 2016