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Friday 20 September 2019

No real evidence, but is there life in outer space?

Deep space: the final frontier.
Deep space: the final frontier.

By Jim Hurley - Nature Trail

When I was a young lad, one of the things I spent my pocket money on was buying the Eagle comic. Foremost hero of that comic was Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future, chief aviator of the Interplanetary Space Fleet. In the comic strip, Dan's archenemy was The Mekon, a little green man who was ruler of the Treens who lived in northern Venus.

The Mekon was super-intelligent. He was all brain. His useless body had atrophied. He was bright green in colour, had a tiny figure, large ominous eyes and a huge bulging, domed head housing his massive brain.

His body was so small and his head was so big that he couldn't walk. He sat on a disk and levitated at will. Though super-intelligent and totally focused on his quest to dominate the universe, he was no match for our hero Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future. In 1950 it was great stuff, albeit part of the British post-war propaganda that was rampant at the time.

However, things were to go downhill. After the Easter Bunny who brought the eggs and the Tooth Fairy who left threepence, of sometimes sixpence, for the loss of a wobbly tooth, the subsequent realisation of the non-existence of little green people on Venus turned out to be the third great disappointment of my childhood.

Are we alone in the vastness of space? As we gaze at the wonder of the night sky on a clear post-Christmas frosty night, can it be that there is no life out there? And if there is life out there could there be intelligent life forms that we could communicate with? All fascinating questions to which there are no answers yet.

In the quest for answers, here are some amazing facts to bamboozle you. Earth is just one of eight planets orbiting the Sun, our nearest star. There are up to 400 billion other stars and at least 100 billion planets in The Milky Way, our local galaxy. Scientists estimate that the number of other galaxies that make up the universe is probably in the order of 100-200 billion.

We know that life forms have colonised every little island in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. We know that life forms have colonised every isolated rock on the local seashore. It seems unthinkable that our little rock, planet Earth, should be the only place in the vastness of space where life exists. Conclusion: probability high, evidence effectively nil. Watch this space.

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