Our Cosmic Story – The Opening of Chapter 9, Is Anybody Out There?

The last chapter’s opening has been written! Hope you find it intriguing. I want you to buy the book after-all :). Thank you for reading:

“Despite all that we have come to know about the universe, there is still so much left to understand about the probability of life elsewhere. There are many unknowns yet to explore, and surely just as many that we can’t even imagine, but we can start with what we know about Earth and the solar system to hypothesize. The gaps in our knowledge are being filled in with new data all the time, but scientists admit that there is a lot of uncertainty about what we might find.

The solar systems we have discovered so far with the Kepler Space Telescope indicate that our own solar system is not the normal configuration of planets and other bodies one would expect. In fact, we have thus far detected no two similar solar systems. The galaxy contains a virtual zoo of various sizes, orbits, and compositions of solar systems. Some have massive Jupiter-sized planets hugging their parent stars, while many have a super-Earth. Others have no asteroid belt at all, and at least one solar system we know of has a massive asteroid belt many times greater than our own. There are even solar systems with four or more orbiting planets that could fit within the orbit of Mercury!

Partly because solar systems are so diverse and not of the expected norm, detecting life on these other worlds is one of the most challenging things humans have ever set out to accomplish. Excitingly, we are just now developing the technology to detect the gases in the atmospheres of worlds outside our solar system, which will tell us a lot about any life there. Certain gases like oxygen and methane, especially in combination, can indicate the presence of life. Future generations of telescopes will greatly improve our ability to make more detailed observations.

Detecting life’s signatures on these worlds may be as far as our technology will ever be able to provide. Because of the vast distances involved, we may never know how alien life differs from that on Earth. They may have four arms, multiple brains, or a host of unique senses that don’t even exist on our planet. Life must conform to the laws of physics and chemistry regardless of where it comes from though, so some features are bound to be similar to creatures on Earth, while others are just as likely to be more different than our wildest science fiction stories can craft.”

Our Cosmic Story by Mathew Anderson, available late spring at: www.ourcosmicstory.com