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The Cradle of Life: A Cosmic Search for Ourselves

proto-planetary disk of dust and gas swirling around a newly formed star

Artist’s conception of a proto-planetary disk of dust and gas swirling around a newly formed star, beginning the process of coalescence into planets. Credit: University of Copenhagen/Lars Buchhave

By Carol Oliver & Ian Morrison

The SKA will have an unprecedented capability to listen for traces of any advanced civilisations within 1000 light years of Earth, which encompasses hundreds of thousands of solar systems.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

One of the most profound questions we can ask of ourselves is: “Are we alone in the universe?” It is also a tremendously difficult question to answer, but as new instruments emerge our knowledge is increasing exponentially towards a tantalisingly common theme – we live in a universe made for life.

This question has many layers, like an onion. The slow peeling back of the early layers reveals new views of the universe and new questions about our understanding of it. While we could be alone in the stupendous immensity of the universe, we also might not be. Either way, the question confronts our thinking about who we are, where we came from and the ultimate meaning of life.

The Square Kilometre Array will eventually be around 50 times more sensitive than any current radio telescope on Earth, with capabilities that could help to answer some of the age-old puzzles about life in the universe and our place in it. Radio telescopes are where the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) began, and where it has expanded into the quest to understand the context in which we make that search. If the rules of physics and chemistry are the same all over the universe, then does that also apply to the rules of biology across space and time?

If it turns out that the rules of biology are universal then, since our own solar system is only around one-third of the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.