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Will 2020 Be the Year We Find Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life?

Listen to “E187 Will 2020 Be the Year We Find Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life?” on Spreaker.

Article by Leonard David                            November 26, 2019                        (space.com)

• So far, astronomers have found more than 4,000 exoplanets and more are being discovered, suggesting that every star in the Milky Way galaxy hosts more than one planet. Space.com asked top SETI experts whether they will detect life elsewhere in the galaxy or even intelligent extraterrestrials?

• In searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, senior SETI astronomer Seth Shostak relies on detecting narrow-band radio signals or brief flashes of laser light from nearby star systems. If there are 10,000 extraterrestrial societies broadcasting radio signals in the galaxy, then he estimates that SETI will need to examine 10 million star systems to find one. That will take at least two more decades.

• But with the new receivers for the Allen Telescope Array in northern California that is scheduled for 2020, SETI will be able to search for laser technosignatures, which may improve their chances. Says Shostak, “[O]ne can always hope to be taken by surprise.”

• Michael Michaud, author of the book: Contact with Alien Civilizations: Our Hopes and Fears about Encountering Extraterrestrials, says that improvements to search technologies could boost the odds of success. But there are still vast areas of the galaxy that we are not looking at. In searching for chemical technosignatures, we’ll most likely find simple life forms before finding a technological civilization.

• If SETI did find evidence of life in the galaxy, Michaud thinks the news will leak quickly. How should they announce the discovery? “[G]overnmental authorities won’t have much time for developing a public-affairs strategy,” says Michaud. Premade plans for such an announcement are unlikely because agency personnel won’t be able to get past the “giggle factor”, thinking that it is all just too absurd.

• Pete Worden, executive director of the Breakthrough Initiatives, which is affiliated with SETI, said, “I think this is going to be a long-term project. I estimate a very small probability of success (of finding extraterrestrial life) in any given year.” Nevertheless, “The Breakthrough Initiatives is committed to full and immediate disclosure of any and all results,” said Worden.

• Steven Dick, an astrobiology scholar and author of the book: Astrobiology, Discovery, and Societal Impact, says despite the work by Breakthrough Listen and NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), there’s no reason to think 2020 would be the year for discovery. “[A]ll these things combine to increase the chances over the next decade of finding extraterrestrial intelligence. I would caution, though, that any discovery will be an extended process, consisting of detection and interpretation before any understanding is achieved,” said Dick. “I see the search advancing incrementally next year, but with an accelerating possibility that life will be discovered in the near future.” “One thing that is certain is that we are getting a better handle on the issues of societal impact, should such a discovery be made.”

• Douglas Vakoch, president of the SETI-affiliated nonprofit Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), notes that “We are right now on the verge of finding out whether there is life elsewhere in the universe.” We scan with available technologies: Earth-based observatories, space-based telescopes, and even craft that travel to other planets and moons in our solar system. “It all depends on how plentiful intelligent extraterrestrials are. If one in 10,000 star systems is home to an advanced civilization trying to make contact, then …the news we’re not alone in the universe could well come in 2020,” Vakoch says.

• “As the next generation of space telescopes is launched, we will increase our chances of detecting signs of life through changes to the atmospheres of planets that orbit other stars, giving us millions of targets in our search for even simple life in the cosmos,” says Vakoch. But we probably won’t have “definitive proof” until after 2020 when NASA launches the James Webb Space Telescope, or 2028 when the European Space Agency starts its Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey, or ARIEL, to study the atmospheres of exoplanets for potential signs of life.

• “[D]on’t hold your breath for discovery by 2020,” says Vakoch. Humans cannot control whether or not there is life elsewhere in the universe. “Either it’s there or it’s not.” “To be human is to live with uncertainty.” “If we demand guarantees before we begin searching, then we are guaranteed to find nothing. But if we are willing to commit to the search in the coming year and long afterwards, even without knowing we will succeed, then we are sure to discover that there is at least one civilization in the universe that has the passion and the determination to understand its place in the cosmos — and that civilization is us.”

[Editor’s Note]   Seth Shostak and his band of idiots at SETI make their living by covering up the widespread existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life all around us, on behalf of their puppet masters, the Deep State elite. Are they liars or are they being fooled themselves? If they are half the scientists they claim to be, they must know the truth. Therefore, they are the very face of the Deep State lying to the public. They are reprehensible. They talk in scientific terms about the new technologies that they employ in their phony search to find a needle in a haystack. But they insist that it will take years, and probably lifetimes before they find a microbe on a distant exoplanet. Then they add platitudes of what a grand discovery it will be if they ever find life in the universe besides humanity. But make no mistake. Their job is to never find life beyond the Earth, and they have gotten very good at it.

 

In the past three decades, scientists have found more than 4,000 exoplanets. And the discoveries will keep rolling in; observations suggest that every star in the Milky Way galaxy hosts more than one planet on average.

                  Seth Shostak

Given a convergence of ground- and space-based capability, artificial intelligence/machine learning research and other tools, are we on the verge of identifying what is universally possible for life — or perhaps even confirming the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence?

Is 2020 the celestial payoff year, in which objects of interest are found to offer “technosignatures,” indicators of technology developed by advanced civilizations?

Space.com asked top SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) experts about what next year may signal regarding detecting other starfolk.

Michael Michaud

Gaining speed
“Well, despite being the widely celebrated 100-year anniversary of the election of Warren G. Harding, 2020 will not likely gain fame as the year we first discover extraterrestrial life,” said Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.

The search for intelligent beings elsewhere, Shostak said, is largely conducted by checking out nearby star systems for either narrow-band radio signals or brief flashes of laser light. And those might succeed at any time, he told Space.com.

“But one should remember that this type of search is gaining speed in an exponential fashion, and that particular technical fact allows a crude estimate of when SETI might pay off. If we take — for lack of a better estimate — Frank Drake’s opinion that there might be 10,000 broadcasting societies in the Milky Way, then we clearly have to examine at least one [million] – 10 million stellar systems to have a reasonable chance of tripping across one. That goal will be reached in the next two decades, but certainly not in 2020,” Shostak said.

             Pete Worden

Improved searches

But there are still reasons for intelligent-alien hunters to be excited and optimistic about the coming year. Multiple existing projects will either be expanded or improved in 2020, Shostak said. For example, the SETI Institute will get new receivers for the Allen Telescope Array in northern California, and both the SETI Institute and the University of California, Berkeley, will conduct new searches for possible laser technosignatures.

“And, of course, there’s always the unexpected,” Shostak said. “In 1996, the biggest science story of the year was the claim that fossilized Martian microbes had been found in a meteorite. No one really saw that coming. So one can always hope to be taken by surprise.”

Previous predictions

“I am skeptical about picking a specific year for the first discovery. Previous predictions of success have been wrong,” said Michael Michaud, author of the thought-provoking book “Contact with Alien Civilizations: Our Hopes and Fears about Encountering Extraterrestrials” (Copernicus, 2007).

“I and others have observed that the continued improvement of our search technologies and strategies could boost the odds for success,” Michaud said, noting that the primary focus of SETI remains on radio signals. “However, we still don’t cover all frequencies, all skies, all of the time. Other types of searches have failed, too, such as looking for laser signals or Dyson spheres [ET mega-engineering projects]. Those campaigns usually have limited funding and often don’t last long.”

                   Steven Dick

A new possibility has arisen because of exoplanet discoveries, Michaud said: “In some cases, astronomers now can look for chemical evidence of life in planetary atmospheres. It is conceivable that we will find simple forms of life before we find signals from a technological civilization.”

     Douglas Vakoch

Prevailing opinion

If astronomers do someday confirm a SETI detection, how should they announce the discovery? It is an old question that has been answered in several ways.

“The prevailing opinion among radio astronomers has been that the news will leak quickly. If that is correct, scientific and governmental authorities won’t have much time for developing a public-affairs strategy,” Michaud said.

“It remains possible that the sophisticated monitoring capabilities of intelligence agencies might be the first to detect hard evidence,” Michaud said. “One might think that the government would have a plan to deal with such an event.”

But, Michaud said that his own experience suggests that such plans are unlikely to be drawn up due to a “giggle factor” and would be forgotten as officials rotated out of their positions. He previously represented the U.S. Department of State in interagency discussions of national space policy.

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