Humanity is fascinated by the possibility of alien life in space. Some could argue that it’s the fundamental motivation for pushing the boundaries of our own existence through space exploration. It’s an interesting concept that many people believe, but more importantly, it’s a concept that you can’t explain away. In fact, when you start to do some research and actually get a sense for just how expansive the universe truly is, it’s actually hard not to believe it yourself.
This is why Tabby’s star is so interesting to astronomers and amateur astronomers alike. When the star was first presented over a year ago, interest was piqued because of the rumor of an alien megastructure surrounding it. Even though this rumor has been largely dispelled, the star has some weird, mysterious activity that’s keeping astronomers focused.
The reason the star is so interesting is that it displays unusual dips in starlight. However, after more than a year of study, no one has found anything alien-like around the star at all. What we do know is that because of its unusual light activity, it’s a star like we’ve never found before.
Andrew Siemion, Director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center, and Co-Director of Breakthrough Listen, has been paying close attention the star’s activity.
“The Breakthrough Listen program has the most powerful SETI equipment on the planet, and access to the largest telescopes on the planet,” he explains in a recent statement, “We can look at it with greater sensitivity and for a wider range of signal types than any other experiment in the world.”
Let’s look at some facts. Fact number one: the universe is huge. Not only is it huge, but it’s actually still expanding and getting even more huge. We know this because the continuous expansion of the universe makes itself evident through constant change. Galaxies are getting further away and more spread out, and we can even see changes happening within the Milky Way as well. I remember from my astronomy 101 class in undergrad, complete with textbook verification, that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth.
Simply, mind boggling.
Fact number two: NASA already has a team in place where their sole purpose is to find other planets with similar conditions to Earth. This means water, distance from a central star, and the existence of an ozone layer, just to list a few qualities. The Kepler mission, as it’s been called, has found thousands of Earth-like planets as of this May, and more are sure to follow.
These findings come from a very limited scope in regards to our technology. As our technology continues to develop, so will our ability to discover even more planets similar enough to Earth.
My point here is that to claim humanity is the only intelligent life in the universe, you’re basically buying a lottery ticket and claiming you’re the winner before they even choose the numbers. It’s just not very likely when you consider the size and scope of the universe we live in, let alone our own galaxy. It’s no wonder that finds like Tabby’s star get people and astronomers interested. We want to know who else is out there, and if there is other life, we want to make contact.