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Friday, October 1, 2010

Searching the Stars

 by Lynette Cook, National Science Foundation
Mankind has always looked to the stars and wondered what was out there. The ancient Greeks and Romans created the constellations, and many early cultures believed the night sky with all its shiny stars and wonders seen by the naked eye was in in-fact heaven. Then came the astronomical visionaries like Galileo and Copernicus whose study of the stars and planets challenged all we believed and showed us that we are but one bright spot among the untold many...we went to the moon, and have landed rovers on Mars...

In 1947 some believe an alien craft crashed in Roswell, NM, and for many generations we have wondered if we were alone in the universe or not. And in 1994 SETI, the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence was established to search space for signs of life. In recent years many in the scientific community have been searching for other worlds, and in the past 10 years astronomers have found about 150 extra-solar worlds, in hopes of finding that one miracle planet that could be like our Earth and support some form of life, if not a culture of E.T.'s. 

Astronomers have been searching for Earth like worlds in what is known as the Goldilocks Zone, a space not too far, not too close, in orbit around a star like our own Sun, that would provide a comparable climate and support liquid water, which is the foundation for life as we know it. 

I have a great wonder for the universe, and I would love to travel space and visit a new world, even meet other beings. I have long had a passion for science-fiction, and have even thought that I was born years and even decades- if not centuries, too early. With all the wonders and problems of our own world and lives, I wonder why so much thought and wonder is put into the study and search of the universe.

Today I read an article online from Yahoo! News that scientists have found a relatively close planet that should be in this sought after Goldilocks Zone, the first world that has the best potential for having life. What a wonder...

I can't help but to both be amazed, hopeful, in wonder, and yet scoff at the idea of finding a habitable world, or making first contact with another culture not of our world. I'm not a Roswell-crazy, but I truly believe there are other cultures out there, and that have and still do visit Earth. I don't know about any of these alien-conspiracy theories, or stuff from the X-Files, but I am sure they are out there, and have visited us. The universe is just too big, and it would be such a waste of space if we were alone. But how can we search for a new planet, or to make contact with another celestial culture when we do not even take care of our own world and people?

Were it that we found a planet ripe for exploration and colonization, would we pillage it of its natural resources and pollute its beauty as we have our own world? Were it that sentient life on this world was of a lesser advancement in technology and culture in comparison to ours, would we evict and steal the world from them as we have of the Native Americans from the time of Spanish Conquistadors to the Cherokee Tribe's great Trail of Tears? What right would we have? And if we could make friends of an alien culture like our own or more advanced, how could we communicate and make peaceful relations with them, when we cannot even agree amongst our own many different cultures and nationalities? 

In our world we practice prejudice and racism based on beliefs of faith to the mere color of skin. What aliens would we find friendly or enemies? Are little green men okay? But the Grays we would turn away? If these beings worshiped unlike the faiths we know, would we consider them heretics? And make war?  

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