'Alien life will be found in 50 years'

'Alien life will be found in 50 years'

Planets supporting alien life beyond the solar system will be found within the next 50 years, says renowned astronomer Sir Patrick Moore.

Asked if recent discoveries of earth-like planets meant that we were closer to discovering proof of alien life within the next 50 years, he said: “Yes, we are not far off. We have found other planets. The next stage is to detect the atmosphere.”

Sir Patrick wrote “The Cosmic Tourist” with his BBC astronomy programme “Sky at Night” colleague Chris Lintott from Oxford University and Queen star Brian May, who has a doctorate in astrophysics and is a close friend.

Lintott said Virgin Galactic’s venture into space tourism would take off and people would pay to travel beyond earth, the Daily Mail reports.

“I can certainly imagine people paying to go to the moon or Mars. Farther than the solar system, you will have to wait a while. To get to the nearest stars would take tens of thousands of years,” he said.

“In the next 100 years, I hope cosmic tourism will be possible. I hope we could go to the (outer) part of the solar system. Distances in space are too vast to go further,” Sir Patrick added.

This week, Lintott announced the discovery of a new planet, PH1, which is around 5,000 light years away. It is believed to be six times the size of earth, and has four suns in its sky - it orbits two, and is in turn circled by a pair.

It was discovered by two armchair astronomers or amateurs using data from the Planet Hunters website run by Lintott and colleagues, and later verified by experts.

The website allows visitors to identify dips in the output of stars caused by their light being blocked by ‘transits’ of orbiting stars.


Rover eyes ‘man-made’ objects in Martian dirt

Los Angeles: Nasa’s Mars rover has swallowed its first scoopful of dirt from the Red Planet’s surface — and found some bright-coloured objects that experts briefly thought might be man-made, the US space agency said.

In an update on Thursday on Curiosity’s two-and-a-half month old mission, Nasa said its Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument, deep in the car-sized rover’s belly, will analyze the soil to learn more about its make-up.

Some experts wondered if one of the bright-colored objects — seen on a photo of a scoop hole in the Martian soil — could be man-made, like an object seen earlier this month thought to be plastic from the rover itself.

“We began to see some bright flecks in the scoop areas,” Curiosity’s project scientist told reporters in Pasadena, California, adding: “The science team started calling them schmutz.”  Some suggested they could be man-made, but following discussions between scientists and engineers, there was a “strong consensus” that they were indigenous to Mars.

This conclusion was backed by the fact that the objects were left visible at the bottom of holes left by the rover’s scoop, meaning they were normally underneath the planet’s surface.

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