What aliens might look like is a growing question among astrobiologists, who are increasingly conjuring up creatures more Lilliputian than mega-brained or reptilian. Fraknoi is on the board of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, known as the SETI Institute, based in Mountain View, where questions about alien civilizations are often discussed.
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He has long speculated that members of a civilization billions of years old might by now have evolved into a mechanical-biological mix, like a robot with a brain, capable of living for thousands of years as they travel through space. But it is also possible, he said, that advanced civilizations would have sent into space thousands of tiny canisters holding the germs of life programmed to incubate and grow when they encounter suitable conditions around a star.
The otherworldly speculation comes after the recent discovery of two interstellar objects zipping past Earth prompted a surge of interest among scientists in space travel and alien civilizations. They were the first verified sightings in human history of objects speeding by from outside our solar system.
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The objects, by their very existence, brought home to many astronomers the reality that rocks or vessels potentially carrying biological spores from other solar systems could actually reach Earth. Observations from Earth as it shot past the sun on Sept.
But Loeb said his point was that objects like Oumuamua and Borisov could have been synthetic and that humans would be well served by developing techniques for determining if such visitors were constructed. He believes the possibility of extraterrestrial life is too important for humans to discount without investigation, especially considering how useful it would be in figuring out the origin of life.
The questions about what form alien beings might take are rooted in what is known as the Fermi paradox, named after Italian American physicist Enrico Fermi, who created the first nuclear reactor. He asked during a casual lunchtime conversation in why aliens have never been spotted, given the high probability of their existence.
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SETI has been searching the skies for radio als or some other of life beyond Earth for nearly four decades without a single peep. Calculations indicate there are habitable planets around at least a quarter of the tens of billions of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, possibly including the closest star, Proxima Centauri, 4.
Most astrophysicists believe life must have sprung up somewhere, some time, in the Given that our sun is 4. Some have suggested that these alien life-forms could be small inactive spores floating in our solar system waiting for the right conditions to grow or as active monitors — transmitters — used by alien civilizations to determine whether Earthlings are a threat and might need to be eliminated.
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Then again, a growing of astronomers speculate that humanity itself might have originated somewhere else, possibly clinging to a chunk of rock ejected from a planet that was hit by a giant meteor. If you can do it from Mars, you can potentially bring life from other planets in other galaxies.
Maybe, he and others suggest, this swapping of biological spores has happened since the beginning of time. Either way, most experts believe an alien encounter is likely someday.
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The question, say those who think about such things, is whether humans will know it when they see it. That would be my assessment by reading the morning newspaper.
Peter Fimrite is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. : pfimrite sfchronicle.
Most Popular. Researchers assume that venting material from its surface due to solar heating is responsible for this behaviour.
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This outgassing can be seen in this artists impression as a subtle cloud being ejected from the side of the object facing the Sun. An amateur astronomer from Crimea, Gennady Borisov, discovered the comet in August, two years after the first alien guest, a cigar-shaped rock, popped up.
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