Observatory looks for alien life at open house

The sheer vastness of our universe makes it hard to imagine that there isn’t life somewhere out there.

For an opportunity to hear from someone on the front lines of the search for extraterrestrial life visit the Rothney Astronomical Observatory’s open house Saturday, Feb. 12. Phil Langill, from the U of C’s department of Physics and Astronomy, will speak about strategies currently being used to find planets outside of our solar system.

“It is always an exciting time for anyone who is in the search for extra-terrestrial life,” said Langill. “Now we have the technology and the ability to identify planets outside our solar system. No one has ever been able to see planets outside our solar system until about 10 years ago. . . With the development of new technology we can now see, classify and compare other solar systems to ours.”

Langill will also discuss the characteristics these planets might need to harbour life and how the recent discovery of microbes using arsenic-based DNA for some of their basic chemical processes widens the possibility of finding life in space.

“We thought we understood all of the processes that give rise to life,” said Langill. “Now we have to start looking in other places and we have got to be broader in our search because we don’t understand completely.”

Weather permitting, the observatory will set up telescopes and stargazers will have the opportunity to watch the tempestuous gas giant Jupiter lumber through the southern sky.

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