Two top astronomers told Congress today that it would be “bizarre if we are alone” and asked for continued funding to detect extraterrestrial life.
Dan Werthimer, director of the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley (SETI is short of “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence”) also told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that he thinks the possibility of microbial life on other planets is close to 100 percent.
Werthimer and his colleague Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute were on Capitol Hill to discuss the need for continued funding for the search for life in the universe.
And they were bullish about the prospects that there is life in outer space.
“It would be bizarre if we are alone,” Werthimer told the committee.
“If you extrapolate on the planets they discovered, there are a trillion planets in the galaxy. That’s a lot of places for life,” Shostak argued. “We know that the majority of stars have planets,” but what “fraction of stars has planets that are more like the earth? It might be one in five.”
“It would be a cramped mind that didn’t wonder what other life is out there,” Werthimer said.
Shostak and Werthimer said there are going to be lots of different stages of life in the universe and there could be “a lot of advanced civilizations” as well.
Werthimer was not advocating reaching out to alien life forms, saying instead that we should just “receive signals and see what’s out there. My feeling is that we should just be listening.”
Shostak reminded the audience how NASA beamed the Beatle’s song “Across the Universe” into space in 2008. Since the transmission was aimed at the North Star, which is located 431 light years away from Earth, we might not get to know if extraterrestrials like the Beatles, Shostak joked.
Both Shostak and Werthimer agreed on this point: There have been no visits from aliens.
“I don’t think that that would be something all the governments would have managed to keep a secret,” Shostak said. “If they were really here I think everyone would know that.”