We will have definitive evidence of alien life in 20 years, Nasa chief scientist believes

Strong indications of life beyond Earth could be found within a decade

Christopher Hooton
Wednesday 08 April 2015 19:07
Comments

The discovery of extra-terrestrial life, probably the most exciting event in human history, may well take place within most of our lifetimes, a high-ranking Nasa scientist has predicted.

"I think we're going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we're going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years," Nasa chief scientist Ellen Stofan said on Tuesday, during a panel discussion focusing on the space agency's search for habitable environments outside of Earth.

"We know where to look. We know how to look," Stofan added, "In most cases we have the technology, and we're on a path to implementing it. And so I think we're definitely on the road."

Nasa believes such discoveries could happen so soon as they will not take place in deep space but in our own solar system and others in the Milky Way.

Sharing Stofan's optimism, associate administrator for Nasa's Science Mission Directorate John Grunsfeld said: "I think we're one generation away in our solar system, whether it's on an icy moon or on Mars, and one generation [away] on a planet around a nearby star."

If life, in whatever form it takes, is found in orbit of the Sun, it could well be on Jupiter's moons Europa and Ganymede or Saturn's satellite Enceladus, which hold seas beneath their icy surfaces.

The Milky Way is "a soggy place," Paul Hertz, director of Nasa's Astrophysics Division, explained.

"We can see water in the interstellar clouds from which planetary systems and stellar systems form.

"We can see water in the disks of debris that are going to become planetary systems around other stars, and we can even see comets being dissipated in other solar systems as [their] star evaporates them."

These estimates don't even take into account the fact that alien life may be able to prosper in conditions different to those required by humans, e.g without need for water.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in