What About Life Elsewhere in the Universe?

by Alan Eggleston

Back to my articles on space topics, for my earlier followers.

NPR (National Public Radio) recently ran an article, “Why Aren’t the Aliens Here Already?” While the hunt for aliens isn’t always a topic of interest for astronomy buffs, the search for exoplanets and life elsewhere is. And it’s worthwhile asking: If life exists elsewhere, is it detectable and if so, why haven’t we found it yet? If life is elsewhere might some of it be advanced enough to travel the stars, and if so, why haven’t they contacted us yet?

It’s reasonable to believe that we will one day soon learn if life exists elsewhere in our own solar system. Missions are right now being planned for the ice moons of Saturn and Jupiter that have the high potential to harbor life, with their sub-surface oceans.

There is already a successful search underway for exoplanets (planets in other solar systems), and our technology has advanced that allows us to study their atmospheres from Earth. One day soon, we will be able to detect their habitability.

Astronomers have recently searched nearby galaxies for signs of advanced civilizations based on our assumptions of their advanced technological use of energy. So far we haven’t found such signs, but as we broaden our search perhaps we will find them.

Another allied field of study, perhaps on the fringes of actual science, is the search for signs that extraterrestrials have visited Earth or are currently visiting Earth. And the question arises, as in the NPR article, if extraterrestrial exist, why aren’t they here on Earth already?

First, can we assume that they haven’t already been on Earth? Some who study that possibility suggest that they have in our distant past. There is no hard scientific evidence that they have, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t.

Second, can we assume that they aren’t here now? There are plenty of people who suggest that aliens exist among us, although they seem to always be just beyond our grasp of detection.

Either way, there is no definitive proof that life exists beyond what we can see on Earth. And if life beyond Earth hasn’t come knocking on our doors, perhaps there are plenty of reasons why.

Why we may not have found life beyond Earth yet

  • The most obvious though least agreeable reason is: Life doesn’t exist outside of Earth. There’s scant proof of that yet.
  • Life exists but it isn’t technologically advanced enough to show up in our searches or to do searches to find us. Kind of hard to believe that of the number of chances of life there wouldn’t be some advanced enough to show up or to do an advanced search.
  • At 13.7 billions years old, the universe is of an age in which advanced civilizations may exist and have tried to contact other civilizations but we missed the call, being only technologically savvy for a relatively short period ourselves. They may call in the future and we will miss the call again because we gave up trying or have some technological failure that means we can’t “hear” the call.
  • Aliens have sent out signals searching for life but at the size and age of the universe, we simply haven’t received the call yet.
  • Extraterrestrials are actively traveling the galaxy or galaxies, but at the size and age of the universe, they haven’t found a way around traveling near, at, or beyond the speed of light to get here yet.
  • Aliens have prioritized their search and just haven’t gotten to us yet.
  • They use different technology and we simply can’t receive the call. By the time we discover the technology or realize we need to use it, we may have missed the opportunity.
  • Aliens have been here and not liked what they have found and so have not contacted us.
  • Other civilizations have not come to the realization that there are other species in the universe and have not sought to contact anyone else.
  • They imagine there is other life “out there” but decided there is no way to reach them, either through travel or communication, and so haven’t even tried.
  • Extraterrestrials have other priorities than using their resources for contacting other civilizations. Searching for other civilizations in space would be a distraction in time, effort, and other resources.
  • They see no reason to contact another civilization, either out of fear our out of practicality.
  • There really is such a thing as a “Prime Directive” and more advanced civilizations haven’t been allowed to contact us.
  • Other civilizations never get beyond the technical ability to destroy themselves.
  • They never get to the technical ability to avoid annihilation from natural disasters.
  • They never get beyond the stage of development where they eventually destroy themselves or knock themselves back to the dark ages, or perhaps they never develop to a stage where they can annihilate disease and they all die. I find this highly unlikely as a generalized statement.
  • What do you mean there has been no contact? Who do you think all those trolls are on Twitter? (Just a joke!)

Really? Just because we haven’t found life outside of Earth yet doesn’t mean we won’t find any in the future. The universe is billions of years old and we’ve only been “looking” for a few decades. It’s multiple billions of light years across and difficult to traverse. Give time a chance. If other civilizations are anything like us, let’s hope they aren’t as impatient and lacking in hope as we humans seem to be.

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