Top 10 most exciting extraterrestrial life discoveries in 2020

Signal from Proxima Centauri

Earlier this month, researchers announced that they had caught a very mysterious

a beam of energy at a radio frequency of 980 megahertz,coming from the closest star to us. There are two planets around Proxima Centauri, which is only 4.2 light years from Earth. One of them is a gas giant, and the second is a rocky world, which is only 17% larger than the Earth and is located in the habitable zone of the star. In theory, this means that liquid water can exist there, which has not evaporated from being close to the Sun. The unexplained signal shifted slightly while observing the star, reminding scientists of the shift caused by movement from the planet. Researchers are excited but cautious in their findings. First, it will be necessary to find out if the radio signal can cause more mundane sources, such as a comet, a hydrogen cloud, or even human technology, to simulate an alien signal.

(Image courtesy of CSIRO / A. Cherney)

Alien bacteria can live in the clouds of Venus

In September, news of potentialevidence for the existence of life in the upper clouds of Venus. The fact is that there, scientists discovered the presence of phosphine, a rare and often poisonous gas that, at least on Earth, is almost always associated with living organisms. Venus, with its infernal surface temperatures, incredible pressure and clouds of sulfuric acid, has long played a secondary role after the seemingly more potentially habitable Mars. But the team aimed the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii and the Large Millimeter / Submillimeter Lattice of the Atacama in Chile at Venus and found a phosphine signature in a Venusian cloud layer with perfectly terrestrial temperatures and pressures. Terrestrial bacteria are known to thrive in some fairly challenging environments. The research team does not claim that this is conclusive evidence of space species. But at least it will lead to more funding for the search for life in seemingly unlikely parts of the solar system and the universe.

(Image courtesy of NASA)

Oumuamua may still be an alien artifact

Two years ago, scientists noticed a cigar-shapedan object racing through the solar system. The object was named "Oumuamua" and is considered by most to be an interstellar comet. But careful observation showed that the object was accelerating as if something was moving it, and scientists are still not sure why. Avi Loeb, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, theorized that Oumuamua is an alien probe pushed by a light sail - a piece of material that is accelerated by solar radiation. Other scholars have doubted Loeb's idea, and the debate is still going on.

(Image courtesy of M. Kornmesser / ESO)

Navy declassified UFO video

In April, the US Navy released footage ofpilots capturing strange wingless aircraft flying at hypersonic speed. Flying objects are visible in the videos taken from military aircraft. Outwardly, they do not look like any well-known aircraft.

Despite the existence of such videos, everyoneyou have to be careful, said freelance journalist Sarah Scholes in her book They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers. According to Live Science, after the decision to examine the evidence of the Navy, Scholes was unable to determine whether alien aircraft were actually shown there.

(Video provided by the US Navy)

The Milky Way may be full of ocean worlds

Oceanic worlds that are classified asplanets with significant amounts of water on the surface or directly below it are surprisingly common in the solar system. The Earth is obviously one of such places, but it is believed that Jupiter's moon Europa hides huge seas under its icy shell, and on Saturn's moon Enceladus, as we already know, there are water geysers erupting outward. The astronomical community has long had the idea to send a probe that could land on any of the quiet moons sometime in the 2030s and check if there are any living things in the ocean worlds.

As for the oceanic worlds beyondour Sun, in a study published in June, researchers looked at 53 exoplanets, similar in size to Earth. They analyzed variables including the size of the planets, their density, orbit, surface temperature, mass, and distance from the star. Scientists have concluded that out of 53, about a quarter may have suitable conditions to be considered ocean worlds.

(Image courtesy of NASA / JPL-Caltech)

Bacteria can survive on pure hydrogen. What about alien life?

Most earthlings need to surviveoxygen. But oxygen is a rare occurrence in space. There is much more hydrogen and helium in the universe. Many planets, including gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn, are composed primarily of these light elements. In May, scientists took E. coli (a bacteria found in the intestines of many animals, including humans) and common yeast (a fungus that is used to bake bread and beer) and tried to find out if they could live in different environments. It is already known that such microbes survive without oxygen, and when placed in a flask filled with pure hydrogen or pure helium, they have managed to grow, albeit more slowly than usual. The findings suggest that when looking for organisms elsewhere in the universe, we might want to look at places that don't quite resemble Earth.

Image courtesy of NASA

Life around a black hole

Hunting life in other worlds, mostscientists are sticking to what they know - looking for Earth-sized planets orbiting stars similar to the Sun. But there may be much more exotic configurations. For example, a planet orbiting a black hole. At first glance, this scenario seems absurd. But, contrary to popular visualizations, black holes do more than just drag everything around them. Gravitationally stable orbits are possible, and light from cosmic background radiation - a relic with temperatures near absolute zero from the early universe that permeates all space - will heat up as it falls into a black hole. As an article published in March showed, it could provide heat and energy to any organisms that accidentally evolved in such a strange place.

Image courtesy of NASA

1000 places where aliens could watch us

When we hunt for life beyond oursplanet, it's important to remember that humans may not be the only ones doing this. In October, researchers compiled a catalog of 1004 nearby stars that could be useful for detecting life on Earth. “If observers were searching [from planets orbiting these stars], they could see signs of the biosphere in the atmosphere of our pale blue dot,” says study lead author Lisa Kaltenegger, assistant professor of astronomy at Cornell University and director of the Carl Sagan Institute at university, the statement said. Using the observation instruments that astronomers use to study exoplanets, alien observers could hunt for oxygen and water in our atmosphere and possibly conclude that the Earth is a good home for living organisms.

(Image courtesy of NASA

Most aliens are probably already dead.

Where there is life, there is death.People like to imagine that our galaxy is full of technological beings that can connect with us. But all cultures and civilizations experience both dawn and dusk. Many of the inhabitants of space may have turned to dust a long time ago. The study, published in December, indirectly confirms this theory, taking into account several important factors: the predominance of stars, in which orbits are Earth-like planets; the frequency of the deadly, destroying all supernovae; the time it takes to develop intelligent life under the right conditions; and the possible tendency of intelligent beings to self-destruct. The analysis showed that the most likely occurrence of life in the Milky Way occurred about 5.5 billion years ago, even before our planet was formed. It seems that mankind appeared relatively late in the galaxy and that many other inhabitants of the universe no longer exist.

Image courtesy of the European Southern Observatory

To find intelligent alien life, it's time for humans to think like aliens

Our "alien hunt" has the potentialfatal flaw - we are looking for them. This is a problem, because we are a unique species, and scientists looking for aliens are an even stranger group. As a result, their overly human assumptions can interfere with their search for alien life. To get around this, Breakthrough Listen, a $ 100 million initiative that explores space for signals from otherworldly beings as part of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program, is asking anthropologists to help uncover some of these biases. Claire Webb, an anthropology and natural history student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spoke about her work with Breakthrough Listen at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Honolulu on January 8.

The human brain has many limitations.We are misled by cognitive biases, optical illusions, and blindness to things we are not ready to see. One question that has always plagued research into alien life is whether we can recognize life that is so different from the one we encounter here on Earth. Scientists have long been convincing us to “expect the unexpected”. Life on other planets may not leave the same biological traces as terrestrial organisms, which makes them difficult to detect from our point of view.

Time will tell whether we can make any headway in our search in 2021.

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