Essay: Are We Alone in the Universe?

Is there life beyond Earth? This question since ancient times worried scientists, philosophers, poets and all the lovers to look at the stars. But serious attempts to find extraterrestrial life and contact with it were talking in the late 50’s – early 60’s of the XX century.

Famous Soviet astronomer Joseph Samuilovich Shklovsky in his famous book “The Universe, life, mind,” first published in 1962, led quite serious arguments in favor of the claim that in the Galaxy there may be at least a few hundreds of millions of planetary systems.” If we assume that life on planets occurs under the most general conditions, the number of inhabited worlds in the galaxy must be of the same order – he wrote. – On some planets development of life could go so far that there are the civilization, armed with all the advances in science and technology.” The English edition of the book co-authored by the American scientist Carl Sagan became the world bestseller.

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An important milestone in the history of the scientific approach to the problem of searching for extraterrestrial intelligence is an article of American physicists Philip Morrison and Giuseppe Cocconi, published in 1959 in the Nature. The authors pointed to the possibility of using microwaves to transmit messages in outer space.

The beginning of the real, rather than theoretical work was the American project “Ozma”.

In 1960, a young radio astronomer Frank Drake conducted a search for radio signals of artificial origin from the stars Epsilon Eridani and Tau Ceti. Both stars are similar to our sun and away from us at a small, for stellar standards, distance – about 11 light-years.

From April to July 1960 every day for 6 hours a 25-meter radio telescope recorded the signals at a wavelength of 21 cm (about 1420 MHz), corresponding to emission of neutral atomic hydrogen, abundantly present in the form of gas clouds in interstellar space. The choice of this frequency is considered to be the most logical from an astronomical point of view. In fact, the frequency was to guess: if the sender transmits a message on the same wavelength, and the receiver is listening on the other, the contact does not occur. The recordings were analyzed in the hope of finding homogeneous repetitive series of pulses which would indicate a meaningful message.

Attempts to establish contact with extraterrestrial civilizations were not limited to “audition” of the space. In 1974, with the help of a powerful transmitter Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico the first three minutes of the broadcast message was addressed to other worlds. The message contained 1,679 bits of information, divided into 73 lines with 23 letters and coded drawing schematically showing human DNA helix, the solar system and the Arecibo telescope.

Special messages also put on board the spacecraft “Pioneer 10”, “Pioneer 11”, “Voyager 1” and “Voyager 2”, running to the boundaries of the solar system.

However, our supposed “brothers in mind” have not shown up yet. Do we need to continue searching for, or should recognize the fact that life, especially intelligent is a unique phenomenon? On this there was a conversation on a scientific cafe organized by the ISTC and Inform-Science agency.

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