By BENJAMIN BREEDVELD
English 9 Honors; Lancaster High School
Teacher: C. Hulgan
For centuries, mankind has searched for traces of life on other planets and in other locations of the universe. Regularly, man wants to believe that he is not alone and reaches to discover other forms of life. There is proof that life currently exists, has always existed, and will continue to exist elsewhere, as evidenced by the Drake equation, Panspermia and the “Super Earth” Gliese 832c.
I shall explain each individually.
The Drake equation, by Sir Francis Drake, is an equation designed to determine the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. The equation is N = R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fc • L.
N = the number of civilizations in our galaxy.
R* = the average rate of star formation in our galaxy.
fp = the fraction of those stars that have planets.
ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets.
fl = the fraction of planets that could support life that actually develop life at some point.
fi = the fraction of planets with life that actually go on to develop intelligent life (civilizations).
fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.
L = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space
Drake’s original estimates were N = 7 × 0.4 × 10-11 × 10-9 × 0.1 × 304 = 8 x 10-20.
This would suggest that we are probably alone in this galaxy, and likely the observable universe. But, he made these estimates in 1961. The modern estimates are N = 7 × 1 × 0.2 × 0.13 × 1 × 0.2 × 109 = 36.4 million. This basically means we are a speck in comparison.
But of course nothing is perfect; it has an issue. Colonization has been proposed to generalize the Drake equation to include additional effects of alien civilizations colonizing other star systems. Each original site expands with an expansion velocity v, and establishes additional sites that survive for a lifetime L. The result is a more complex set of three equations. But even if the Drake equation has a fault, think about the chances – astronomical!
Panspermia is the theory that microorganisms or biochemical compounds from outer space are responsible for originating life on Earth and possibly in other parts of the universe where suitable atmospheric conditions exist. Scientists in Norway have experimented with multicellular organisms and concluded that it is possible to send organisms through space to another planet. How? They made a launcher that immediately threw objects at terminal velocity. Then it was easy. Just shoot a target at point-blank range with bugs. The scientists in Norway used multicellular organisms; this means that micro-organisms can almost definitely survive long enough to start life— if the planet can support them.
A new planet has been discovered. The planet Gliese 832c is a super-Earth mass planet orbiting in its star’s habitable zone. It was accidentally found during the Kepler space mission. Pictures from the Kepler space mission suggest that the planet, Gliese 832c, is colored blue (suggesting water) and green (suggesting life). It is 16 light years away and is the most Earth-like planet found on record.
There are hoaxes that give the idea of life on other worlds bad credit. However, there are so many accounts that cannot be explained. These normally are followed with questions that try to disprove what happened. But in this particular subject, your opinion as the reader is the only thing that matters. Keep an open mind and never close it.
This article is part of Youth Speak Out, a new section in The AV Times featuring editorials by participating Lancaster High School students. Read more about this initiative here.