If funding is received as expected, say astronomers at SETI Research Centre at the University of California, Berkeley, chances are that we will discover intelligent alien life within the next twenty years.
Dan Werthimer, director of the research centre, said in his written testimony to Congress that the likelihood of aliens existing was ‘close to 100 percent’. In the last fifty years, he said, evidence has steadily mounted that conditions we believe necessary for life are common and perhaps ubiquitous in our galaxy. So the probability that life has evolved elsewhere, and that certain species have become intelligent like our own, is plausible and warrants scientific inquiry. Doctor Werthimer was appealing to Congress to continue funding SETI in its quest to find life outside our planet.
Incorporated as a non-profit organisation in 1984, SETI has been involved with luminaries in the field of astronomy and science in general: people like Carl Sagan (one of its founders), and Nobel Laureates like Charles Townes and Baruch Blumberg are among its patrons. It uses instruments such as the ground-based Allen Telescope Array at Lick Observatory and the Very Large Telescopes in Chile. SETI researchers also use space-based telescopes like Hubble, Spitzer and Herchel. They’re also involved in space missions and in Mass Rovers Opportunity and Curiosity.
The hunt for alien life is probably the latest manifestation of our most fundamental quest for companionship at a species level. The world of science fiction is perhaps not too far away, now. It remains to be seen how we conduct ourselves if and when we meet our fellow galactic citizens.