Alien hunter: Signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life will be found within 25 years

By Travis Gettys
Tuesday, February 11, 2014 9:37 EDT
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Signs of intelligent life in the universe will likely be detected within the next 25 years, predicted a leading alien hunter.

Seth Shostak, chief astronomer for the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute told a space exploration panel last week that researchers will have scanned enough star systems by about 2040 to discover alien-produced electromagnetic signals, reported Space.com.

“Instead of looking at a few thousand star systems, which is the tally so far, we will have looked at maybe a million star systems,” Shostak said Thursday at the 2014 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts symposium at Stanford University.

NASA’s Kepler space telescope has revealed that about one in five stars in the Milky Way galaxy has at least one planet that could support life as we know it.

“That’s a fantastically large percentage,” Shostak said. “That means in our galaxy, there’s on the order of tens of billions of Earth-like worlds.”

Alien hunters believe that at least some of these worlds are home to extraterrestrial beings capable of sending electromagnetic signals into space – as humans do every second of every day.

The SETI Institute has pointed large radio dishes toward the sky in hopes of discovering those signals since 1960, and some believe such a transmission – known as the “Wow” signal — was detected in 1977 by an astronomer in Delaware, Ohio.

But funding for the ongoing project is a constant issue for researchers, Shostak said, and could prolong the search if budgets are slashed any further.

While SETI focuses its search on more advanced extraterrestrial life, other researchers are focusing their efforts on finding simple life forms which would likely be more commonly distributed throughout the universe.

For example, microbial life on Earth probably developed about 3.8 billion years ago – just 700 million years after the planet was formed – but multicellular life evolved 1.7 billion years later.

Humans finally emerged about 200,000 years ago and developed technological capabilities just more than 100 years ago.

Shostak said the search for alien life is a three-way race between researchers looking for advanced civilizations, scientists seeking simple organisms on planets or moons within the solar system, and astronomers looking for signs of microbial life on planets elsewhere in the galaxy using NASA telescopes.

“I think any of these horses has a pretty good chance of succeeding — just my opinion — a pretty good chance of succeeding in the next 20 years,” Shostak said.

[Image: "Alien Humanoid" via Shutterstock]

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