[CNI News thanks Rebecca Keith for forwarding this item from UFO Updates (email@example.com). The story originated in The Scotsman newspaper, dated April 8, 1998, written by Alastair Dalton and Derek Lambie.]
Life will be discovered on planets going round other stars before the middle of the next century, a leading Scottish astronomer is predicting.
Dr. Alistair Glasse [told] the Edinburgh International Science Festival [on April 9] that he expects an ambitious European space project to find extraterrestrial life.
Dr Glasse, of the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, is a telescope specialist on the Darwin Mission, which is competing for funding from the European Space Agency. The project involves launching five rockets containing separate telescopes out towards the orbit of Jupiter to search for life.
The telescopes would be linked to create an instrument with 40 times the power of the Hubble space telescope to detect light from planets previously hidden by the glare from their stars. The mission would involve a two-year journey to a spot 400 million miles away from the Earth.
The ESA is expected to rule on Darwin and a rival proposal, Gaia, in 2000, with the mission to be launched in 2015.
Dr. Glasse said yesterday: "I think it is likely that there is life elsewhere in the universe and it is highly likely that this mission will detect something.
"You cannot say for certain there is life until you detect it, and it is important to have hard evidence... But if there is life on any of the 120 stars we are looking at, then
Darwin will detect it," he added.
In the Darwin Mission, scientists would search for signs of life, ranging from plants to intelligent aliens, on planets believed to be orbiting nearby stars.
The five infrared telescopes would examine the signals from the planets for traces of oxygen or water, which could signal the presence of life.
The five telescopes would join up in a set pattern in an orbit somewhere between Mars and Jupiter and will take up stations about 50 metres apart. Their images would be combined in a central control unit where a technique called nulling interferometry would be used to cancel out the light from the star being examined, making it possible to detect light from the planets.
The first stage would be merely to establish which stars have planets in orbit round them. The next would be to read the patterns in the light reflected from the planets to tell which chemicals -- particularly water and oxygen -- are there.
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