Recently The Waterford Historical Museum and Cultural Center hosted a speaker that works for NASA. His visit was a part of the Waterford Historical Museum and Cultural Center’s Science and Technology Lecture Series. The lecture was held on November 10th, lectures are at 7pm the second Thursday of every month. The speaker of this last lecture was John W. Delano, PH.D; distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Science, UAlbany; Associate Director of a NASA Astrobiology Institute at RPI and Scientist for NASA.
The Lecture was on NASA’s Search for Life in the Galaxy. Questions that the lecture was on include- (What are the prospects of finding life elsewhere in the Galaxy? How are such measurements possible? When will we have the capability to do so?)
I did not attend the lecture but sometimes these questions entered my mind also. The answers to some of these questions came from TV documentaries, books and research over the World Wide Web. Here I am going to answer the last question only to the best of my knowledge.
When will we have the capability to do so?
NASA has a technique to study other solar systems in our galaxy. We are in the Milky Way Galaxy. The technique is used with the Kepler Mission and Kepler telescope. This is their website http://kepler.nasa.gov. Part of the research includes the studying of “transits” or light that is emitted from distant suns and then obscured by orbiting planets. By watching these transits they can make measurements and calculate varying features of the planet. Part of the research will be able to discover whether the planet could sustain life. How far it is from their sun, what is the time it takes to circle their sun or their orbit around the sun. What other planets are in the solar system that would allow an Earth like planet to exist. The size of the planet can be measured and if it has characteristics to sustain life through water and ambient temperatures.
This is maybe the new way NASA and America will further space exploration; by just looking real hard and taking measurements.
Amateur astronomers with telescopes can study and document certain aspects of other very large planets using transits. But this takes a lot of patience research and documentation. Part of the Kepler Mission is to send a space probe into space to look further into our galaxy and observe transits in other solar systems. Transits and deductive reasoning to the probability of life on a planet is our first step to discovering life in outer space. From there we can discover what else the planet is made of and the state it is in whether it is a gassy planet or liquid planet an Earth like planet.