Could alien life be in our own backyard?
Astronomers in the Atacama Desert in Chile are working to determine if any of the millions of stars in the night sky outside of our own Milky Way galaxy might be capable of hosting life.
This specific area of the Atacama contains a hot, thin layer of gas due to a series of volcanic eruptions and volcanoes in the area, which turned the area’s light into a strong starlight lens that is invisible to the human eye, so incoming light is blocked out until the surface absorbs the light.
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According to NASA, this structure also helps the gas contained in the gas mantle of stars surrounding the surface, which means we might be able to gain a view of some of the most mysterious stars in the galaxy.
“This is actually one of the most important exoplanets research projects in the world today,” NASA exoplanet scientist Matthew Gagnon said in a statement. “There are a lot of intriguing discoveries we can only make when we have a complete view of the sky. The most important problem for a scientist trying to understand a planet is, can we see it with our eyes? If we can’t see it, we can’t study it.”
Astronomers are excited to gain insight into the nature of planets outside our solar system, with the latest work pertaining to astrometry (the study of how the light of our sun is altered when it passes in front of the stars in our own sky). The scientists are also using the data to explore the possible existence of dark energy, which could have the ability to block out light from most stars in the sky.
These researchers are also working to gain the ability to look back in time in hopes of uncovering the possible existence of extraterrestrial life. As the theorist famed astronomer Frank Drake put it, “Many of these planets are not so far from us that we could travel there.”
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