Alien Life Will Be Detected By 2040 Says SETI's Seth Shostak

Monday, 10 February 2014 - 12:07PM
Alien Life
Monday, 10 February 2014 - 12:07PM
Alien Life Will Be Detected By 2040 Says SETI's Seth Shostak

The discovery of alien life will be made by the year 2040. That's the bold claim made by SETI Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak at NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Symposium last week. If Shostak is right, then the chances are that the discovery of alien life will be made within your lifetime, meaning we will be around to witness the most profound discovery in human history. 

 

"I think we'll find E.T within two dozen years using these sorts of experiments," Shostak said in reference to missions like Kepler. "Instead of looking at a few thousand star systems, which is the tally so far, we will have looked at maybe a million star systems 24 years from now. A million might be the right number to find something."

 

Indeed, the Kepler Space Telescope has had such a resounding success in finding Earth-like planets it has far exceeded the initial targets set by NASA. It seems that the general feeling among the astrobiologists is that it is a matter of when, not if we will discover alien life forms. 

 

Kepler has proven that our galaxy is teeming with Earth-like planets, many of which orbit within their star's habitable zone. And it is these findings that give Shostak the confidence to make such bold claims.

 

"The bottom line is, like one in five stars has at least one planet where life might spring up," said Shostak. "That's a fantastically large percentage. That means in our galaxy, there's on the order of ten of billions of Earth-like worlds."

 

So it would seem that the numbers certainly stack up and, while Shostak feels confident that alien life will be discovered, he did deliver a warning that this would require consistent funding, something that is by no means a given. Funding to agencies such as SETI are never a foregone conclusion. It was only 3 years ago that SETI's Allen Telescope Array was put into hibernation for more than 7 months due to a lack of budget.

 

However, should a budget exist, Shostak believes that the discovery of alien life will be a three-pronged attack. While Shostak's SETI remain on the hunt for intelligent life, one must remember that the discovery of microbial or simple organisms would be by no means less significant. And Shostak admits he's not entirely sure which will be discovered first. 

 

"I think any of these horses has a pretty good chance of succeeding - just my opinion - a pretty good chance of succeeding in the next 20 years, say."

 

So, more and more it looks like fortune is going to favour the optimists when it comes to discovering alien life. No doubt many of you have said to your sceptical friends that we would be naive to consider ourselves the only living beings in the universe, now it would seem you have some numbers to back up your argument.

 

You can watch Shostak's talk in full in the video above. Just skip to the 37 minute mark for the start of his lecture.

Science
Space
Alien Life