'Billions and billions' of stars raise fascinating questions

Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 03:45 PM.

Scientists are "watching" thousands of stars, checking for telltale variations in brightness which indicates something obstructing our view. The "somethings" creating these micro-eclipses are typically orbiting planets.

Planets come in a wide range of flavors, so astronomers concentrate their searches to catalog those positioned in what we consider to be the "habitable zone." Among many apparent prerequisites of life we believe exist, for our searches we consider liquid water to be the absolute common denominator.

This subject is hugely complicated and full of speculations, but suffice it to say that we little ole humans are accumulating knowledge and skills to put us on trajectory to the most tantalizing of human goals. What we’ll interpret as confirmation of intelligent life in space will likely come in the form of radio waves.

We’ve been broadcasting into space for about a century. Therefore our communication bubble extends out 100 light-years. Any "listeners" would have to be within that distance to "hear" us.

Our Milky Way is about 150,000 light-years across, and it’s quite possible alien civilizations got into the wave transmission business way back before we were walking upright. Of course that doesn’t mean one day our SETI display will pick up a signal remotely akin to anything we broadcast, but who knows?

I know this sort of thing bores most folks to tears, but I’ve always been hooked on astronomy and remain so. Our cosmic neighborhood is unbelievably interesting, which makes me wonder why more kids don’t change channels from MTV to Discovery.

It’s a sad mystery. Perhaps we need fewer rock stars and "billions and billions" of Carl Sagans.

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