A topic raised thousands of times in hundreds of websites, “Are we alone in the whole universe?” Well, “universe” is our way of saying “All the things present in the space.” But in the Ever-Expanding Deep Space, comprising of ‘n’ number of galaxies, constituting another ‘m’ number of solar systems, which subsume yet other ‘x’ number of planets, do you seriously think that Ours is the only planet with life sustaining environment on it? (Well, you may be correct, you may be wrong.) But then, the probability of Earth being the only planet nurturing life on it is 1/x.m.n, considering the known fact that x, m and n are large, really large numbers! This post will NOT show you any proofs of alien life existing. That’s well covered in the previous post by my mate, Sahil Bagwe, as well as an old post by me. This post will just usher some Facts about the “universe”, which WILL make you question YOUR Own EXISTENCE IN THE UNIVERSE.
Hubble is Mankind’s Most Powerful telescope. Orbiting the Earth, it captures and transmits important Pictures of the observable Universe. Since its launch in 1990, it has sent many exceptional snapshots of the Earth’s, our Solar system’s and now even our galaxy’s neighbours! The credits for conceiving an idea to build the Hubble and launching it goes to NASA and ESA. But why am I mentioning about Hubble in an article focusing on life beyond Earth? Well, that’s because Hubble is essentially the reason for us to believe that there are other galaxies. And the probability of other galaxies, pushes up the probability of there being more life forms out there.
A human body comprises of 99% of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus and about 0.85% of potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. What are these elements? After all, they are present in planetary matter too. A theory states that we are made up of StarDust. That the universe was, billions of years ago, a singularity, a point of matter, which expanded over time after the big bang. If you do the math, you will find it quite reasonable to believe in life beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
Hubble was sent up in the Space to orbit Earth in 1990, and was subjected to mockery a couple of times since then. The first one was within few weeks of its launch when it was found that one of the mirror panels meant to reflect light onto the receiver was not perfectly curved. The light rays falling on that particular region were subjected to Spherical Aberration, causing blurring of the images. The next was when the Ground Support team of scientists decided to focus the Hubble onto a relatively dark and deep part of the space, as observed in the images sent. But little did the mockers know that this step would prove to be the greatest and the most important leap towards the discovery of our neighbouring galaxies!
Lets start from the beginning. It was in 1996 that these scientists decided to point out the telescope to the “Empty” part of the Space. Some of them looked at this move as too risky to be performed, since the Huge Telescope, which was orbiting the Earth, was short of time to capture many other things than “Empty Space”. Nonetheless, they did open the shutter of the telescope to view the blank spot. It was as small as sand grains being held in the hands. After 10 full days of observing, feeble photon signals which had struck the detector of the Hubble, gave a spectacular view after the shutter was closed. The images, when processed, showed almost 3,000 galaxies that might have emitted the light almost 13 billion years before finding peace in the detector panel. Each single dot and smear on the image represented whole galaxies, containing billions of stars each! It was sure a great feat achieved. Later, in 2004, they did it again, this time with better detectors and filters, allowing more light than ever before. The telescope was pointed towards the Orion constellation, and the shutter was kept open for 11 whole days. This time, they observed over 10,000 galaxies. The light that reached the telescope, had perhaps escaped those galaxies when the universe was only just 500 million years old. And after 13 billion years, it reached us. This region of the Space was then termed as the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field.
This discovery was a milestone in the Astronomical field and made it clear that there were 1,000s of galaxies, may be millions more out there. It also means that at least one of them has a planet having the same combination of matter as in ours. Or maybe a different composition, but it suits its inhabitants. Since birth, we are taught that everything in the world, the universe, has a pattern. That pattern is based on a particular series or sequence. That a permutation or combination could unveil its true nature. So we brought in Probability into the picture. Probability of a thing happening increases proportionally with the total number of choices you have. For example, if you have:
[CASE I] 100 kids with 100 balls and Each of them gets a choice of painting his ball with the colour of his choice out of the colours Blue, Red and Green.
[CASE II] 1,000 kids with 1,000 balls ready for the same drill.
It is obviously found that More “Number” of balls of the same colour are from Case II. By saying that, I mean that even if the proportion of Red:Blue:Green (lets say 3:2:1) is same in both cases, there will be more NUMBER of Red balls in Case II than that in Case I.
I have the same feeling about the universe. Lets say that Earth has life because it is among the 1% of the planets of the whole Galaxy to have life (This assumption is not accurate at all, just an assumption by me). But if the 1% ratio holds true for the whole universe, the total number of planets increase in the comparison, thus pushing up 1% of the planets to a larger numerical value. That’s what makes sense to me.
Mind boggling, isn’t it? Well these facts sure do make Me question about the nature of our existence in the Universe. Do you feel likewise?
Image Credits: i) http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140605.html ii) http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/the_universe/hubble_ultra_deep_field/