December 6, 2013
The likelihood of life on other planets is “very high,” a planetary scientist told a House committee in a hearing some Democrats chided as evading U.S. issues.
“The chance that there’s a planet like Earth out there with life on it is very high,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology planetary science and physics Professor Sara Seager told the House Science Committee.
“The question is: Is there life near here, in our neighborhood of stars? We think the chances are good,” she said, answering a question from Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, who asked: “Do you think there’s life out there, and are they studying us? And what do they think about New York City?”
Seager was one of three Ph.D.-credentialed witnesses prominent in a scientific field once considered speculative who testified at a hearing called “Astrobiology: The Search for Biosignatures in Our Solar System and Beyond.”
A biosignature is a substance — such as an element, molecule or even a phenomenon — that provides scientific evidence of past or present life.
Seager studies gases on distant planets that might indicate life.
The others testifying were NASA astrobiologist Mary Voytek and science historian and astrobiologist Steven J. Dick of the Library of Congress.
Voytek and Dick also answered Hall’s question.
“Whether they’re looking at New York or some small town in Indiana, the diversity of life here and the way that we live our lives is phenomenal, and I think it goes all the way down from humans to microbes,” Voytek said.
Dick said, “I think the guiding principle holds that what’s happened here has happened elsewhere in our huge universe,” the Washington Post reported.