That whole “Storm Area 51” raid may have turned out to be a massive joke, but all kinds of people, including the most brilliant among us, still believe that alien life must exist (albeit on other planets). One of those brilliant people is Didier Queloz, a Swiss astronomer who took the opportunity of winning this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics to note, in part, that it’s quite possible people will discover alien life within the next 30 years.
Professor Didier Queloz of Cambridge University, who has jointly been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, says he strongly believes that alien life exists pic.twitter.com/Y3M4rKpVWf
— PA Media (@PA) October 8, 2019
Queloz, who’s now a professor at the University of Geneva and the University of Cambridge, shared this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics with astrophysicists James Peebles and Michel Mayor. But it seems to be Queloz alone who’s making the claim—at least at this juncture—that alien life must exist thanks to the number of planets and stars in the universe. The Telegraph reports Queloz told members of the media at the Science Media Centre in London on Tuesday about his beliefs. “There are just way too much planets, way too much stars, and the chemistry [for life] is universal.”
And Queloz most definitely knows a lot about stars and planets. He, Peebles, and Mayor were awarded their prize for discovering the first exoplanet ever observed around a main-sequence star, which undoubtedly helped to spark widespread interest in exoplanets amongst astronomers and other researchers working in cosmology. As of May 2016, more than 4,300 possible exoplanets have been discovered.
“The chemistry that led to life has to happen elsewhere,” Queloz added in his statement to the media. He said that it’s even “realistic” to expect technology to advance rapidly enough to allow for the discovery of alien life within three decades.
Astronomers will probably need to be quite crafty when it comes to discovering alien life, just as Queloz, Peebles, and Mayor were when they discovered their exoplanet, a “Hot Jupiter” dubbed 51 Pegasi. The trio were able to determine the existence of the exoplanet thanks to the way its relatively minuscule gravity tugged on its parent star. (It’s obviously difficult to see lightless planets, and this is one of two ways researchers have of verifying their existence.)
An illustration of what 51 Pegasi may look like. M. Kornmesser/Nick Risinger
But even if the search for extraterrestrial life doesn’t pan out within our lifetimes, the search is still enormously valuable. The discovery expanded people’s horizons, Queloz said during his media conference, adding that “once you start doing that there are a lot of questions you can start asking [such as] why are we like [we] are?”
What do you think of Queloz’s prediction? Are we going to find alien life within the next few decades, or are we utterly alone in the universe? Let us know your Nobel Prize-winning opinions in the comments!
Feature image: NASA