A few months ago I wrote about the possibility of discovering alien intelligence, and the whole SETI project. New research suggests that the planets close enough for us to investigate have environments that would be extremely inhospitable to life – at least to life as we know it.
Sophie Borland writes about Howard Smith’s recent findings.
Still waiting for little green men to make contact? Don’t hold your breath. A leading astronomer has concluded there probably aren’t any aliens out there – meaning we are entirely alone in the universe.
Even though there may be tens of thousands of other distant planets similar in size to Earth, the conditions on them are likely to be too hostile to support life-forms such as ET.
Dr Howard Smith, a senior astrophysicist at Harvard University, believes there is very little hope of discovering aliens and, even if we did, it would be almost impossible to make contact.
So far astronomers have discovered a total of 500 planets in distant solar systems – known as extrasolar systems – although they believe billions of others exist. But Dr Smith points out that many of these planets are either too close to their sun or too far away, meaning their surface temperatures are so extreme they could not support life.
Others have unusual orbits which cause vast temperature variations making it impossible for water to exist as a liquid – an essential element for life. Dr Smith said: ‘We have found that most other planets and solar systems are wildly different from our own. They are very hostile to life as we know it.’
‘The new information we are getting suggests we could effectively be alone in the universe. There are very few solar systems or planets like ours. It means it is highly unlikely there are any planets with intelligent life close enough for us to make contact.’
Not everyone agrees.
Only last month Professor Stephen Hawking said the fact that there are billions of galaxies out there made it perfectly rational to assume there were other life-forms in the universe.
Researchers from the University of London have recently suggested that aliens could be living on as many as 40,000 other planets.
But Dr Smith suggests that such estimates are optimistic.
He said: ‘Any hope of contact has to be limited to a relatively tiny bubble of space around the Earth, reaching maybe 1,250 light years out from our planet, where aliens might be able to pick up our signals or send us their own. But communicating would still take decades or centuries.’