Throughout the ages man has gazed into the stars and questioned the possibility of life outside of Earth. Scientists and philosophers have spent lifetimes searching to find the existence of extraterrestrial life. However, this search has posed more questions than it has answered.
Can life exist outside of Earth?
Yes, scientists have discovered several planets capable of sustaining life. One of these is the planet Gliese 581 c. This planet emits temperatures that could possibly result in liquid water. This temperature, which is also ideal for supporting life, averages 96 degrees. Gliese 581 c is located in a zone known as the goldilocks or habitable zone. The zone is within a solar system that has the highest likelihood of maintaining life. Scientist Xavier Delfosse stated: "Because of its temperature and relative proximity, this planet will most probably be a very important target of the future space missions dedicated to the search for extremophile forms of extraterrestrial life. On the treasure map of the universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X." (Wikipedia.org)
Another planet that scientists consider a likely candidate for extraterrestrial life is Gliese 581 d. While in the same galaxy as Gliese 581 c, Gliese 581 d has several key differences. Gliese 581 d is considered a more likely candidate for supporting life because it exists closer within a habitable zone. Also this planet radiates temperatures more similar to that of Earth.
Of the 340 planets discovered, several are believed to be capable of sustaining life. Given there are billions of planets assumed to exist, the odds are greatly increased that other forms of life exist.
Given these theories, one wonders: If extraterrestrial life forms did exist, what would they look like?
Alien life is stereotypically portrayed as slim, silver or green creatures with large black eyes a large head. However, life on other planets may not even look like life to us. Organisms on Earth are carbon-based and need water for survival. According to author Barry Parker in his book, Alien Life, organisms on other planets may not be based on chemical reactions. Three theories as to other possible life forms include computer intelligence, gaseous life and life on a large scale where stars are the basic unit.
Under the theory of computer intelligence, biological life advanced to a point where technology was so advanced it formed its own civilization. One may ask how this is possible. Parker theorizes a disaster such as an exploding star could have wiped out man kind, leaving computers on their own. While some recognize this theory as viable, most scientists agree this would not be possible.
Another theory scientists have come up with is an intelligent gas cloud. Researchers have found astounding evidence that an intelligent gas cloud could possibly exist. Stated in the 2007 New Journal of Physics, using a computer model of molecular dynamics, an international team has discovered that, under the right conditions, particles of inorganic dust can become organized into helical structures. Helical structures can interact with one another in ways that are usually associated with organic compounds and with life. Researchers state, not only do these helical strands interact in a counter-intuitive way in which similarities can attract, but they also undergo changes that are normally associated with biological molecules, such as DNA and proteins. For example, they can divide to form two copies of the original structure. These new structures can also interact to induce changes in surrounding structures. They can even evolve into more structures as irregular ones break down, leaving behind only the fittest structures in the plasma. (Fred Hoyle, The Black Cloud)
The third theory predicts that life exists on a much larger scale and stars are the basic unit. In other words, humans, all animals and even planets themselves all exist as the components that make up the true basic units, stars. One could compare this relationship to that of humans and the cells and organs that make up our body. This theory is not widely accepted by scientists.
People who have claimed to have seen aliens have detailed the appearance of aliens. Alien abductee, Betty Hill, claimed in an interview: The aliens were short, bald, and had light gray skin, big eyes, two small nostrils, and a thin slit for a mouth. Another abductee, Antonio Villas Boas, claimed The humanoid had blue eyes and made sounds like barks and yelps. Without physical evidence, it is hard to say what the true appearances of possible alien life.
What are UFO's?
A UFO (Unidentified flying object) is defined as any unexplained moving object in the sky. While this could be an unusual kite or government aircraft, most people associate UFO's with alien spacecrafts. UFO's are considered by most to be large flying disks in the sky that are smooth and sometimes glow or flash bright lights. Thousands of UFO sightings have been reported throughout time. Some have been proven false, while others remain unresolved mysteries.
One of the most famous sightings was America West Flight 564. On May 25, 1995, an America airliner relayed an encounter with a flashing flying object as it flew over the panhandle of Texas. This was a passenger plane, nearing Bovina, Texas. White lights emitted a flash, moving left to right in line formation. The lights appeared directly below the plane and were sighted by the captain and an attendant. The captain contacted the Albuquerque Trafic Contril Center via radio transmission as he viewed the object below. Officials informed him nothing should be flying near that area at that time. The craft continued its course, and the lights began to fall behind it. As thunderclouds formed, the UFO could be viewed as a cigar-shaped object. This object was estimated to be 300 to 400 feet in length. Even though the object could not be seen on radar, the North American Air Defense Command (NAADC) had stated they were tracking this unidentified object. After making contact with the unknown craft, the NAADC realized this object was a small plane with a non-functioning transponder. (Aliensthetruth.com)
Other UFO sightings are not so easily explained. A sighting was reported in Carteret New Jersey in 2001. Many reports coming from the Newark Airport in New Jersey claimed to have seen a large triangular pattern of flashing lights in the sky. One hundred people were seen stopped on the highway, outside of their vehicles, staring into the sky. The local newspaper wrote an article about the incident and stated the Newark Police Station had received dozens of calls about flashing lights in the sky. In addition, CNN and a local news station covered the incident. Strangely, many people claimed to have seen these lights while others who were present during the alleged sighting, saw nothing. While investigating the sightings, it was noted that no meteorite activity took place and no aircrafts were flying over that area. Offering physical proof was a videotape submitted by a police officer who witnessed the sighting. The video was of excellent quality and showed the triangular string of lights in the sky, just as hundreds of witnesses had claimed to have seen it. NASA later confirmed this was not space debris.
What are alien abductions?
An alien abduction is a purported experience in which a person claims to have been taken away by extraterrestrial beings. As with UFO sightings, many individuals have claimed to have been abducted by extraterrestrial beings. Some claim these beings were peaceful and no harm was done, while others claim they have been used to experimental purposed.
In 1967 Betty Andreasson reported her alien abduction story as follows: Betty was in her kitchen on the night of her abduction. The rest of her family was in the living room when the lights in the house began to flicker on and off. Betty, startled by the lights, froze as a red beam shot through her kitchen window. Betty's father, who had also witnessed the red beam, ran to the kitchen to investigate its origin. He was in awe as he noticed five strange creatures, propelling themselves in a hopping motion, toward their home. As the creatures reached the front door, they casually stepped inside. Before any of the family could run, they were placed in a trance. Betty, however, remained alert. One of the creatures began having a telepathic conversation with her as the others surrounded the members of her family. These creatures had a small nose and ears, wide, black eyes and a large oval-shaped head. Their mouths were replaced by small slits and they were only capable of telepathic communication. Betty later claimed these aliens had asked her to board their ship and promised she would not be harmed. Betty did as she was asked and in a short while, the craft met up with what she claimed was the mother-ship. Aboard this craft, Betty was subjected to a number of physical examinations using unknown equipment. While one test did cause her pain, Betty believed it was the source of a religious awakening in her. Betty assumed she was missing for approximately four hours when the aliens return her home. Once home, Betty ran to see her family who were still in a trance. One of the aliens released them, boarded their craft and returned into the night sky. Betty claimed she was put under hypnotism and programmed not to reveal any of the happenings from that night. Eventually, Betty recalled many of the details from her alien abduction.(UFOexperiances.com)
Another individual, Kelly Cahill, told her abduction story in 1993: After midnight, Kelly and her family were returning home from vacation when they peered out their windows and saw a craft with flashing lights surrounding it. It silently hovered above the road just in front of Kelly's car. The UFO was so near Kelly, she swore she could see people in the windows of the craft. As she began screaming to her husband, the craft zoomed off to their left and disappeared before her husband had taken notice of it. Continuing their drive home, Kelly was examining the sky for traces of the craft when a light flashed so bright, it felt like she was blinded. Within what seemed like seconds, Kelly was sitting in the passenger seat of her car, relaxed and completely unaware of what had happened. Her husband drove his family home and upon their safe arrival Kelly suddenly felt as though something was missing from their drive home. Kelly realized an hour had vanished from her and her families lives. That night as Kelly undressed for bed, she noticed a strange triangular mark on her stomach and knew it must have came from her abduction. Kelly was taken to the hospital on two occasions, one for severe stomach pain, and another for a uterine infection. Kelly was subjected to hypnosis after her abduction occurred and began to recollect many of the details form of that night. (About.com, Booth)
Another abduction story that has been given considerable research is that of Whitley Strieber in 1985: Strieber was a well-known author when he was vacationing at his cabin with his wife and son over the Christmas holidays in 1985. Because the cabin was so isolated, Strieber felt weary of his families safety and installed a security system. Strieber activated his system the day after Christmas as his family was getting ready for bed. A few hours later, he heard a strange sound, which woke him from his sleep. Strieber assumed a burglar must have set off the alarm and went to investigate. As he did, he was shocked to see a strange alien-like life form standing near his bed. The next thing he knew, he was sitting in the woods that surrounded his cabin. He was clueless as to how he had gotten there or what had just happened to him. His memories were lost, and he eventually sought the help of Dr. Donald F. Klein. Klein performed hypnosis on Strieber in an attempt to recover the lost time. These sessions were helpful, and enabled him to recover many of the details from the night of December, 26, 1985. Strieber remembered being lifted into the air by an unknown force and carried to a craft. He recalled meeting three different alien races; the first being a small robot-like creature, followed by a short, wide creature and finally a thin alien with large black eyes. He was subjected to many medical examinations while in the UFO. These included the insertion of a long needle into his brain and a small blood sample from his finger. Because these details were so strange, Klien believed Strieber was having hallucinations caused by temporal lobe epilepsy. Strieber, however, refused this explanation and believed all the occurrences of that night had actually taken place. (About.com, Booth) Stories of abductions have been told for many years. These include those sited from 1967 to 1993. These are only three of thousands that have been told. Are these people liars or storytellers or is there more to the thousands that claim abduction? Of the thousands of claimed cases, shouldn't there be some physical, tangible evidence?
If extraterrestrial life does exist, is it primitive life or intelligent life?
When most think of aliens they think of beings capable of interstellar travel, advanced technology and communication between stars. However, some scientists do not agree with this and instead claim alien life possibly exists, but in a primitive form. It is a commonly held belief that where water exists, so can life. (Ross. S. Olsen). For this reason, the discovery of water in space has been a tremendous finding. So far, scientists have located water on the surface of mars, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn as well as several planets outside our solar system. This water could possibly contain microorganisms that, if capable of evolving, would be candidates for a secondary Earth. Also, some scientists believe these planets with water hold great importance because they could support the human population if we were ever forced to evacuate Earth.
Recently, signs of primitive life were found in a meteor on Mars. John Noble Wilford stated: Scientists studying a meteorite that fell to Earth from Mars have identified organic compounds and certain minerals that they conclude are evidence for primitive life on early Mars. The discovery of the first organic molecules ever seen in a Martian rock is being hailed as startling and compelling evidence that at least microbial life existed on Mars long ago, when the planet was warmer and wetter. The molecules found in the rock, which left Mars some 15 million years ago, are being described as the fossil trace of past biological activity. (Xent.com, Wilford)
If intelligent life was found, what would be the affect on the citizens of Earth? Most believe such a discovery would ripple through every aspect of our lives.
Religions would be greatly impacted by the discovery or extraterrestrial life. Most religions state that God created Earth alone inclusive of its life forms and no other life was created. If intelligent life were found, there would be no telling the toll this would take on the worlds' religions. As Paul Davies states in the September 2003 edition of Atlantic Monthly: Today, of course, scientists expect to find no more than simple bacteria dwelling deep underground, if even that. Still, the discovery of just a single bacterium somewhere beyond Earth would force us to revise our understanding of who we are and where we fit into the cosmic scheme of things, throwing us into a deep spiritual identity crisis that would be every bit as dramatic as the one Copernicus brought about in the early 1500s, when he asserted that Earth was not at the center of the universe. (Philosophy-in-la-tribe.net)
According to NASA chief scientist, James Garvin, If we discover we are not alone, I think that will ripple through the textbooks of history and we'll be on the quest. Astronomer, Vikki Meadows, states It would be one of the most important discoveries in science in the sense that it would perform a revolution like the Copernican revolution which took Earth out of the center of the universe. The Earth itself and its life will not be unique. We will know that when the conditions are right, life can form elsewhere in the universe. I think that will have an energizing effect on science and it will also definitely encourage us to spend a lot more time to go out there and look now that we know it might be quite easy. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist, believes We're at the top of the food pyramid. We are at the top of all the pyramids. We are the big honcho on planet Earth. However, we have to mentally prepare ourselves for this big shock of perhaps being dethroned from the center of the universe when we discover evidence of life in outer space. Executive director of the Global space League, Joan Horvath reported I think there will be both a philosophical ripple effect because we are not the center of the universe as we might have thought we were and I think there will also be a scientific ripple effect because we're going to learn a lot from this other example out there that evolved independently. Theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, claims I think any visit by aliens would be very obvious and probably very unpleasant like in the movie, Independence Day. Science Fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke, believes that There either is or is not intelligent life in outer space; however, either thought is frightening. From these quotes and sentiments of some of our most distinguished citizens, it is apparent such a discovery would shatter existence as we know it.
It is because of the possible planet-wide chaos that some believe the government is hiding extraterrestrials or information about them. The most famous instance of this is Area 51.
"Area 51" is a part of an off-limits military base near Groom Lake in Nevada. Most associate this base with an alien cover-up. Trespassing onto Area 51 can result in arrest, so most keep their distance, hoping to catch a glimpse of extraterrestrial existence. The following are theories humans entertain regarding the occurrences in Area 51; The storage, examination, and reverse engineering of crashed alien spacecraft , the study of their occupants and the manufacture of aircraft based on alien technology, meetings or joint undertakings with extraterrestrials, the development of exotic energy weapons or means of weather control, the development of time travel and teleportation technology and the development of unusual and exotic propulsion systems related to the Aurora Program. (Projectparanormal.org) While pertinent government officials continue to deny these activities, civilian questions and suspicions continue.
What are the chances that life exists outside of Earth?
While it is hard to estimate an exact number, scientist Frank Drake devised an equation for predicting the chances of extraterrestrial life. This equation is known as: The Drake Equation. It states: . While it seems confusing, each of the letters stand for a possibility in outer space. N stands for the number of civilizations in our galaxy where intelligent, communicating life is possible. R* represents the average rate of star formation in our galaxy. Fp is the average fraction of those stars that are surrounded by planets. Ne is the average number of those planets that can possibly support life. Fe is the fraction of the previous planets that continue and develop life. Fi is the fraction of planets that developed life that also develop intelligent life. Fc is the number of those civilizations that can send detectable traces of their existence into space. Finally, L stands for the lifetime of the planets with the necessary criterion.
So what is the answer to the drake equation? R*- most scientists estimate there are currently 200-400 billion stars in our galaxy. Fp- scientists estimate 20-50% of stars are surrounded by planets. Ne- For each star that has planets, scientists estimate 1 to 2 of those planets are capable of sustaining life. Fe- Estimates are 100% because most scientists agree that where life can evolve, it will evolve. Fi- Approximately 50% of those planets evolve intelligent life. Fc-10 to 20 percent of the intelligent planets have the means and the desire to communicate. L- Estimations surround 10,000 years. Taking into account the averages of these criteria, The Drake Equation states there are approximately 18,000 planets in our galaxy with intelligent life that is capable of communication.
If there are truly 18000 intelligent civilizations out there, the unanswered question remains, where are these civilizations and why have we not found them