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We asked young astronomers: Do you think there is life elsewhere?

We asked young astronomers: Do you think there is life elsewhere?

To introduce you to our young researchers, we conducted Throughout the academic year 2022-2023 a series of short interviews, to which all master’s and doctoral students, as well as all our researchers, are invited to respond. We posted selfies on Facebook with the hashtag #iRExEclairInterviews in the past few months.

In this latest article in a series of four, we compile the different answers received from these young scientists of the future to the big question:

Do you think there is life elsewhere in the galaxy? If so, what do you think it might look like?

From right to left, top to bottom: Alexandrine Laureux, André Baudouin, Anne Boucher, Ariane Delaire, Caroline Piaulet, Charles Cadieux, Charles Edouard Bockarie, Chris Mann, Clemence Fontaneve, Derek Lizotte, Dominique Couture, Erica Le Bourdis, Étienne Artegao , Frédéric Genest, Jiang Nguyen, Jared Splinter, Jonathan St. Antoine, Catherine Thibault, Kevin Moore, Kim Morel, Leslie Moranta, Lisa Dang, Loïc Albert, Marilou Fournier Tondro, Michael Matisek, Neil Cook, Olivia Lim, Pierre-Alexis Roy and Romain Allart, Simon Delisle, Thomas Vandal, Thomas Vandal, and Vineshwaran Krishnamurthy.

Pierre Alexis : In my opinion, yes, there is life elsewhere in the galaxy. Knowing now that planetary systems are common in our galaxy, it is entirely reasonable for me to assume that there is life in other systems. Now, what would this life be like? I think it would be very different from life on Earth, this is the most accurate answer I dare to give!

Ariadne : certainly! I think every astronomer hopes so. My scientific answer is that it is likely microscopic life. However, I would like to see marine mammals with the intelligence of a primate. Imagine a philosopher whale!

Jared : Given the size of the galaxy, I think life is out there somewhere! While I think it is likely that life elsewhere is not intelligent, I think it is not impossible that it could exist. Although we do not yet have the ability to communicate with other life forms, I hope that one day we will be able to make our dreams of space explorers come true in Star Trek!

Frederick : Thanks to the thousands of exoplanets we’ve discovered so far, we know that a large portion of stars have planetary systems. We’re talking billions of possible planets, just in our galaxy! It is hard to believe that we will find life only on Earth! I think there must be at least microbial life on many of the exoplanets.

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Chris : I think the chances of finding intelligent aliens are low, but since there are so many planets in our galaxy, it seems almost certain that there is some form of life out there somewhere. And for the first time in human history, we have the technology to discover it. It’s so exciting!

Nile : I think there is no doubt that there must be life somewhere in the universe. The important question is how difficult it is for life to exist. The answer to this question will tell us whether life is everywhere or if it is very rare. Much of our research on exoplanets is bringing us closer to answering this question!

Leslie It seems selfish to me to think that Earth is the only planet in the universe on which life has evolved. I also remain convinced that the discovery of extraterrestrial life means the discovery of a form of life fundamentally different from ours.

Derek : It seems statistically almost impossible that we are completely alone in the universe, especially if we are talking about very simple life like bacterial life. On the other hand, other intelligent life forms like ours seem very unlikely (although I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing)…

Dominic : I believe that the emergence of simple microbial life is very common in the galaxy, provided the right conditions exist on an exoplanet. However, the emergence of particularly more complex and intelligent life may be rare and humanity could be the only civilization presently present in the galaxy.

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Kim : I think we somehow won the lottery of life, that is, we were very lucky that everything was arranged so that life could develop on Earth. On the other hand, as in the lottery, although the winners are rare, there are still many of them. So I think there must be another place in the universe where life exists, but in a form other than ours, and therefore with another type of cell.

Olivia : I wish! In addition to microorganisms invisible to the human eye, I would like to imagine that, elsewhere in the universe, there are plants, animals, and other forms of life that cannot be described with our earthling vocabulary. But I have no idea if all these guesses have any scientific basis!

I : I am convinced that life exists elsewhere in our galaxy. The hardest part is finding it. I don’t think we’ll find “intelligent” life anytime soon, but certainly the equivalent of bacterial, fungal, or even plant life. I would like to believe that somewhere in our galaxy there is another planet full of strange plants and flowers.

Andrew : The galaxy is so big that it is inconceivable to me that life could only appear by chance on one planet out of hundreds of billions. For me, the real questions are: Are we able to discover this said life, using today’s technology? And what after 100 years? And what after 1000 years? Will we be able to communicate with other intelligent species? I don’t think to ever say no, but we’re still a long way from answering any of these questions. Exciting problems for posterity!

Carolina : The last twenty years of exoplanet discoveries have revealed that most stars harbor at least one planet. Given the hundreds of billions of trillions (!) of stars that exist in the universe, I think there are probably few places other than Earth where the conditions are suitable for the emergence of life.! I imagine alien lifeforms probably wouldn’t have much to do with how aliens are portrayed in the movies, as they focus a lot on life as we know it: it could just be life at the stage of one cell or a few!

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Catherine : Yes, I think there is life elsewhere in the galaxy! I like to think that there are tiny bacteria living in a world of lava or that there is a civilization more advanced than ours where the balance between environment and life is respected. Smart or not, I think life is very different from what we know here on Earth.

Etienne : To get a rough idea of ​​what extraterrestrial life might look like, take a snorkeling tour in the sea, and look for sea anemones, sea cucumbers, and jellyfish. I think the representation we have of possible contact with an extraterrestrial civilization tells us more about the humans who wrote the script than about possible aliens! Even those in “Contact” speak very clearly. I leave you thinking what response you would make to a puff of C7H9O2N in your direction … However, some organisms that share fragments of DNA with you know how to interpret this message very well! If you want to see what it’s like to confront a non-human intelligence, watch the wonderful movie “The Wisdom of the Octopus.”

Roman : When we look at the starry sky, it is difficult to tell ourselves that we are alone in the universe and for good reason, the number of stars in our galaxy and the number of galaxies in the universe are so great that we cannot comprehend. . But knowing how life manifests itself on other worlds? Are there life forms more elaborate than single-celled organisms? I don’t know but I suppose it could look like anything on Earth or whatever one can imagine would be wrong. I prefer to tell myself that nature will always surprise us!

Michael M. : Statistically speaking, I would expect at least one of the hundreds of billions of other planetary systems in the Milky Way to harbor life. Given the age of our galaxy, life can take the form of single-celled organisms or advanced civilizations.

To hear other iREx astronomers discuss this important issue, watch our video Is there life elsewhere? From the series Outer Planets We!

To read astronomers’ answers to other questions, see the other articles in the series: