We’ll find life outside the Solar System in 25 years, says astrophysicist

A German astrophysicist has set a deadline of 25 years for us to find life outside the Solar System. Although ambitious, he believes it is not an unrealistic plan.

“There is no guarantee of success. But we will learn other things along the way,” said Sascha Quanz, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the ETH Zurich,

Quanz made this and other observations during the recent opening event of the new Center for the Origin and Prevalence of Life at the University of Zurich on 2 September.

He detailed ongoing projects that could help us finally answer one of humanity’s great questions: Are we or are we not alone in the universe?

Astronomers estimate that each of the more than 100 billion stars in the Milky Way has at least one planet in its orbit — that is, there are a huge number of exoplanets (very distant, once in the Solar System). There are more than 5,000 already known, and new ones are discovered daily in observations from telescopes on the ground and in space, such as the James Webb.

Quanz believes that many of these worlds could be just like Earth, positioned at a suitable distance from their host stars (their sun), allowing for ideal temperatures and other conditions for life, such as the presence of water. However, one also needs to understand if there are atmospheres on these “terrestrial” planets and what they are made of.

James Space Telescope webb

Earlier this month, the new telescope’s first direct image of an exoplanet orbiting a distant star was released. the gas giant HIP 65426 b is 12 times the mass of Jupiter (the largest in the Solar System) and orbits its star at 100 distances Sun-Earth.

HIP 65426 b james webb - Nasa/ESA/CSA, A. Carter (UCSC) - Nasa/ESA/CSA, A. Carter (UCSC)

Exoplanet HIP 65426 b, 355 light-years from Earth, recorded by different instruments of the James Webb telescope

Image: NASA/ESA/CSA, A. Carter (UCSC)

But the James Webb was not built with a focus on studying exoplanets. Its main function is to search for the oldest stars and galaxies in the universe. However, it has allowed several advances in the research of planets outside the Solar System, among them, the detection of carbon dioxide and water in their atmospheres.

But Quanz explains that the telescope isn’t powerful enough to see the small, rocky, Earth-like planets that orbit their stars at distances where liquid water can exist — the so-called “habitable zone.”

new instruments

The astrophysicist’s team is developing a mid-infrared imager and spectrograph, METIS, which will be part of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT or “extremely large telescope”).

“The main purpose of the instrument is to take the first picture of a potentially Earth-like terrestrial planet around one of the closest stars,” he said. quanz. Scientists also hope to investigate the composition of their atmospheres.

O ELT is being built by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile and, once completed, at the end of this decade, it will have a mirror nearly 40 meters wide, making it the largest optical telescope in the world — as its name suggests.

ELT chile - ESO/L.  Sidewalk - ESO/L.  Sidewalk

ELT (Extremely Large Telescope), under construction in Chile, will be the most powerful optical telescope in the world

Image: ESO/L. Sidewalk

But a ground-based telescope has to deal with interference from Earth’s atmosphere, which distorts chemical measurements of the atmospheres surrounding distant planets. Therefore, a space mission will be required to complete this study.

According to Quanz, the ESA (Space Agency European) is already working on it. The LIFE (Large Interferometer for Exoplanets) mission, conceived in 2017, is in its initial study phase and has not yet been officially approved or funded.

Its aim is to characterize the atmospheres of terrestrial exoplanets and look for life outside the Solar System. From space, the instrument would examine a multitude of promising distant worlds, looking for traces of molecules that might have been created by living organisms.

About Raju Singh

Raju has an exquisite taste. For him, video games are more than entertainment and he likes to discuss forms and art.

Check Also

Read Dead 2: Fan with almost 6,000 hours on Stadia wants help from Rockstar

Yesterday (29), the Google announced the shutdown of Stadia, with the service being live for …