Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Dozens of scientists gathered at a Vatican-sponsored meeting to fit together emerging pieces of a puzzle still waiting to be solved: whether there is life on other planets.
If finding extraterrestrial life is like "a detective chase, a crime to be solved, we're getting very close to the answer," said Chris Impey, head of the Steward Observatory and the University of Arizona's department of astronomy in Tucson, Ariz.
Impey was one of 30 high-level scientists attending a Nov. 6-10 study week on astrobiology sponsored by the Vatican Observatory and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. He and others spoke at a Vatican press conference Nov. 10.
The astronomer said it is widely believed that life needs three basic ingredients: carbon-based material, energy provided by stars, and water, "which is one of the most common molecules in the universe."
"These three elements have already been found in a lot of places in galaxies," he said.
"The universe, if it's like a table, the table is set for dinner. Everything is there, all the ingredients are there" to welcome and support life, Impey added.
Until 1995, no one knew whether there were planets circling some of the billions of stars in the universe.
Advancements in planet detection have since led scientists to discover more than 400 planets outside of the solar system and dozens more are found each year, he said.
Jonathan Lunine, professor of planetary science and physics at the University of Arizona, said three or four worlds within the solar system also have conditions where life may be found.
From Zenit, "Vatican Considers Life on Other Planets"
From Catholic Sensibility, "Lost Sheep of the Universe"
From the Times Online, "E.T calls the Pope?"