Alien life could soon be detected using new powerful telescopes, scientist says
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A top university scientist believes we could be able to see aliens in the future with thanks to new powerful telescopes.
Cambridge University scientist Dr Emily Mitchell reckons devices such as the James Webb Space Telescope will allow scientists to analyse the atmospheres of other planets in great detail.
A closer look at the planets will reveal more about their birth and evolution, stars, and galaxies.
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Dr Mitchell has suggested that alien life may be detected in the next few decades by identifying patterns known as biosignatures.
New powerful telescopes allow the analysis of starlight as it passes through a planet's atmosphere, revealing information about its chemical make-up.
This chemical composition may be changed in the presence of certain gases to evidence past or present life – known as a biosignature.
Dr Mitchell spoke prior to her appearance at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual conference.
Cambridge University is teaming up with Harvard, the University of Chicago and ETH Zurich to found the Origins Federation.
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The Cambridge scholar believes it is “very likely” extraterrestrials will be found, as life is almost certainly “quite common” in the universe.
She said: “As we begin to investigate other planets, biosignatures could reveal whether or not the origin of life on Earth is just a happy accident or part of the fundamental nature of the universe.
"We’ve only got one biosignature, here on Earth. But if we have, in 10 or 20 years, as my optimistic colleagues suggest, thousands of biosignatures, we can start addressing that [question].
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However, others have discounted Dr Mitchell's optimism.
ETH Zurich's Professor Didier Queloz commented that it would be “foolish to predict” when alien life might be detected, but hinted Mars rock samples may provide the first evidence.
Professor Queloz reported: “Hopefully within my lifetime I will see something significant. Maybe in a couple of years someone with the James Webb telescope will detect an atmosphere that will look Earth-like.
“Or maybe we will find out that most planets have no atmosphere and realise we are bloody lucky on Earth.”
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