Feeds

Boffin: Earthlike worlds within 30 lightyears of here

Welcome for alien microbe overlords in some quarters

Build a business case: developing custom apps

A heavyweight American boffin says that Earthlike worlds will soon be discovered within 30 light-years of our Solar System, and that such worlds' abundance across the universe means that the existence of alien life is a racing cert.

Speaking in advance of the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, where a major symposium on the subject took place at the weekend, Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution laid out his view.

"There are something like a few dozen solar-type stars within something like 30 light years of the sun, and I would think that a good number of those - perhaps half of them would have Earth-like planets," he said. "So, I think there's a very good chance that we'll find some Earth-like planets within 10, 20, or 30 light years of the sun."

According to Boss, the new generation of orbital telescopes - such as the European CoRoT, which has already found a planet just twice the size of Earth, or NASA's Kepler - will be able to detect smaller, rocky planets resembling Earth. He is sure that such planets are common, and that they will be detected in our immediate stellar neighbourhood.

"I will be absolutely astonished if Kepler or COROT didn't find any earth-like planets, because basically we are finding them already," he told reporters on Saturday.

Boss believes that with Earthlike worlds so common, the emergence of life resembling that of Earth somewhere is more or less inevitable.

"I am not talking about a planet with intelligence on it. I simply say if you have a habitable world... sitting there, with the right temperature with water for a billion years, something is going to come out of it.

"At least we will have microbes," the eminent brainbox said.

In taking this view, Boss is echoing the beliefs of top-drawer British boffins who told the science minister in 2007 that alien life would be discovered soon.

Worlds where life had arisen would be apparently be relatively easy to distinguish from dead planets, owing to the presence of chemicals such as oxygen or methane in their atmospheres which could be detected by orbiting instruments just as the planets themselves will be.

"That will be pretty strong proof they are not only habitable but actually are inhabited," said Boss.

Detecting civilised life would be more difficult, he thought, partly because it was less likely to exist and partly because methods such as trying to detect radio broadcasts would be problematic and might not tell us anything.

Nonetheless, Boss thought such research was "important to do because, even though there is a small probability of success, if you actually find something, it is an immense discovery to make".

There's more from AFP here, or a podcast interview with Boss here. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.