Is there life beyond our solar system?

“We think that there might be microbes, bacteria, and those types of life forms on a wide range of planets, but how many planets have aliens looking like us and with whom we could communicate: maybe only a handful!” says Kevin Nolan, lecturer in physics in the Institute of Technology Tallaght, Dublin.

So far, scientists haven’t yet been able to prove that life on other planets exists, but we think that complex life forms could appear on a planet with the same characteristics as Earth. It will take decades of research, better telescopes, and better knowledge of different types of life forms to know for sure what’s out there. That’s why the planet Earth needs people who are good at science, technology, engineering and maths!

Earth has oxygen, vegetation and CO2, and we could see these things from space at a great distance, so we are hoping that the new generation of humans will have telescopes precise enough to see if there is oxygen on planets very far from Earth.

The life forms that we usually think of rely on water at some level, but there are some life forms that live from radiation, e.g. bacteria in mines which have never seen sunlight, but live off the radiation in the rock. “Often, where we find radioactive heavy metals, we find really bizarre types of life forms”, says Dr Niall Smith, Head of Research of CIT.  The challenge for the future is to discover new types of life forms, or life in extreme conditions.

Listen to the rest of the chat in the teacher community to discover the following:

How many exoplanets have been discovered so far? 
How far away from Earth is the last known exoplanet?
How do we discover exoplanets? What equipment is needed? 
Is it possible to make use of natural resources on Earth from the Moon?
What is a black hole?
Can robots survive the long-term journey to one of the planets?
Where do astronomers stand on the topic of multiverse? 
And plenty more!

Further information: visit the Blackrock Castle Observatory website.