Humans are about to discover alien life on a distant planet.
This is according to scientists who said that based on everything known about physics, biology and chemistry, “we are not alone” in the universe.
Experts believe NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) – the most powerful device ever launched into space – will help lead the way in discovering an exoplanet hospitable to life in the next 25 years.
Astrophysicist Sasha Quanz, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, believes aliens will be confirmed in two and a half decades, but JWST won’t – its successors will.
These statements echo a recent study from the University of California, which states that aliens will make contact with humans by 2029, but not using telescopes.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope wasn’t designed to analyze exoplanets, but the device proved it can detect molecules essential for life in atmospheres
The UC study looked at radio wave transmissions sent by NASA to Pioneer 10 in 2002 – a routine protocol to transmit and collect data.
The signal reached a star about 27 light-years from our planet as the transmission spreads out when they come into contact with an object.
The UC researchers hope that this signal was intercepted by aliens calling back to Earth.
The JWST has already detected carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide in the atmospheres of two extrasolar exoplanets – the very first observations of this kind.
This is because JWST can analyze molecules in the atmospheres of distant worlds and identify those that are essential for life.
Building on the technology and success of JWST, NASA is developing a multibillion-dollar successor that should search for life on Earth-sized planets as early as the early 2040s.
The Habitable Worlds Observatory (HabEx) will specifically examine the skies of Earth-like “exoplanets” for signs of life.
A recent PBS documentary, New eye on the universe, explains how JWST is poised to locate the faint fingerprints of creation in the atmospheres of exoplanets using the telescope’s advanced spectroscopes.
JWST was not designed to study exoplanets, just ancient stars in the universe, but its capabilities have exceeded expectations thanks to its powerful technologies.
“There are two kinds of scientific instruments,” Mike Menzel, lead mission systems engineer for JWST, said on the PBS show.
“Cameras that produce images and spectroscopes that produce rainbows.”
The colors of the rainbow are formed according to a specific molecule detected in the atmosphere of an exoplanet.
“I think Mike’s analogy of a rainbow is a good one,” Lee Feinberg, JWST’s optical telescope manager at NASA Goddard, told DailyMail.com.
“You scatter the light in its different colors, but the key is we’re comparing when the planet passes in front of the star versus when it’s behind the star.”
What helps the JWST make these comparisons, Feinberg says, is that its sensors can see further beyond the visible light spectrum than previous telescopes like Hubble — deep into the infrared light spectrum.
In 2021, NASA launched the James Webb Space Telescope, which allows scientists to see further and in greater detail than the 33-year-old Hubble telescope
The telescope has already detected carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide in the atmospheres of two exoplanets outside our solar system – the very first observations of this kind
This allows scientists to see the amount of water, sodium, carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, which they can either dig deeper into the exoplanet or move onto the next.
“There are many molecules, classic examples are carbon dioxide and water, where the best wavelength to do it is in the infrared where Webb sees,” Feinberg told DailyMail.com.
“That’s why Webb made the first-ever confirmed detection of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of an exoplanet very early on,” says Feinberg.
In November 2022, JWST showed just how much it has become a major player in the search for extraterrestrial life after successfully revealing the composition of an exoplanet’s atmosphere in never-before-seen detail.
JWST’s powerful instruments captured atoms and molecules, along with signs of active chemistry and clouds — features that Hubble and Spitzer failed to detect when they observed the planet and those with signs of life.
The target was WASP-39b, a hot Saturn 700 light-years away from Earth.
“In 30 years, scientists have gone from barely being able to detect exoplanets to characterizing important chemical clues in their atmospheres, such as water, using facilities such as the James Webb Space Telescope,” researchers from Michigan State University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology said. Technology (MIT) written for it The conversation.
Building on JWST’s technology and success, NASA is developing a multi-billion dollar successor tasked with searching for life on Earth-like planets from the early 2040s
The work of JWST telescopes is crucial for future missions that can look deeper into an exoplanet.
HabEx will look for possible signs of habitability in exoplanet atmospheres by looking for signs of water and other biosignature gases, including oxygen and ozone.
‘HabEx will be sensitive to all types of planets; however, the main goal is to directly image Earth-like exoplanets for the first time and characterize their atmospheric content,” NASA shared in a statement.
“What it can do uniquely is actually study the atmospheres of Earth-like planets around sun-like stars,” Feinberg explained to DailyMail.com. “Webb can’t quite do that.”
‘Webb can study exoplanets that are around other types of stars.
“And it can see really big gaseous planets around sun-like stars,” Feinberg said. “But it can’t see a rocky Earth-like planet and its atmosphere around a Sun-like star.”
Like JWST, HabEX will also detect molecules, such as methane and carbon dioxide, to determine if they have higher concentrations than Earth.
Cambridge scientist Emily Mitchell said: ‘We only have one biosignature, here on Earth.
“But in 10 or 20 years, as my optimistic colleagues suggest, when we have thousands of biosignatures, we can start addressing (the question of whether we are alone in the cosmos).”
She also explained that if HabEx finds oxygen, water and methane in one atmosphere, “you could say, ‘Yeah, that’s life for sure.'”