Do you like making new friends? We certainly hope so, because according to NASA, we as a species are only 20 or so years away from potentially discovering life on other planets. This revelation came to light during a discussion at NASA’s headquarters on Monday, reports CNN.
NASA officials currently estimate that at least “100 million worlds within the Milky Way galaxy” possess the atmospheric infrastructure needed to sustain life as we know it. The only thing preventing us from confirming this potential factoid is our lack of technology.
According to NASA, our current technological innovations (think the Hubble Space telescope, the Spitzer Space Telecope and the Kepler Space Telescope) possess the power to “determine if the planets are the right distance away from the star to have liquid water.”
Enter the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Slated to be launched in 2018, the telescope will take the space exploration game to the next level by detecting biosignature gases, i.e., the types of gases produced by lifeforms (think farts, as an example). Furthermore, unlike the Hubble Space Telescope, which hovers a paltry 353 miles above the Earth, the JWST will be situated a whopping 930,000 miles from Earth, thus giving it the vantage needed to find the elusive lifeforms lurking in our sector of the universe.
And while the expected 20-year wait period might seem relatively small in the bigger scheme of things, just keep in mind that space technology moves at an extraordinarily rapid pace. Matt Mountain, director at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore (which will be the future operations center for the JWST), explained to CBS Connecticut:
“What we didn’t know five years ago is that perhaps 10 to 20 per cent of stars around us have Earth-size planets in the habitable zone. It’s within our grasp to pull off a discovery that will change the world forever.”
The premise is that technology has changed so much in five years that there’s no telling what will be possible in another 5, 10, 15 and 20 years. However, NASA remains confident that the myriad of possibilities includes finding life on other planets.
Ready for it? If not, just try to do like Matt Mountain and simply imagine:
“Just imagine the moment, when we find potential signatures of life. Imagine the moment when the world wakes up and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over — the possibility we’re no longer alone in the universe.”
In the meantime, check out the full NASA discussion below:
Image via [Google Images]