Vatican searches for extra-terrestrial life

Nov 10, 2009
This picture taken from a terrace in Rome on October 19, 2009 shows a view of Saint Peter's Basilica at The Vatcian. Is there life on other planets? The Vatican has asked that age-old question over the past five days during a "study week" on astrobiology gathering leading scientists from around the world.

Is there life on other planets? The Vatican has asked that age-old question over the past five days during a "study week" on astrobiology gathering leading scientists from around the world.

"The questions of life's origins and of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe are very suitable and deserve serious consideration," said the chief papal , Father Jose Gabriel Funes.

Although the questions "offer many philosophical and theological implications," the gathering of about 30 leading astronomers, geologists, biologists, physicists and other scientists "focused on the scientific perspective," Funes said, according to the Vatican news service.

The event hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences was held to mark the International Year of Astronomy.

"There is a palpable expectation that the universe harbours life, and there is hope that the first discovery is only a few years away," said Chris Impey of the University of Arizona.

"It is appropriate that a meeting on this frontier topic is hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences," Impey said. "The motivations and methodologies might differ, but both and posit life as a special outcome of a vast and mostly inhospitable universe."

Technological breakthroughs have led to the discovery of more than 400 planets beyond the solar system, he noted.

His colleague Athena Coustenis of the Paris-Meudon Observatory, told AFP she thought that if life exists "we will find it soon," and most likely within our solar system.

In astrobiology, "we realise every day that reality goes beyond fiction," she said.

The participants hoped to publish their conclusions in a book, Funes said.

The Jesuit priest broached the question of extraterrestrial in an interview last year, when he said the search for aliens did not contradict belief in God.

"As an astronomer I continue to believe that God is the creator of the universe," Funes told the mouthpiece, the Osservatore Romano.

The possibility raises a difficult theological question concerning redemption from the original sin, which by Christian tradition occurred in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit of a particular tree.

Funes told the Osservatore Romano: "If other intelligent beings exist, it's not certain that they need redemption."

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Space debris expert warns of increasing CubeSat collision risk

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Vatican gives nod to Darwin, not Design

Jan 19, 2006

The official Vatican newspaper has published an article praising as "correct" a recent U.S. court decision that intelligent design is not science.

Exploring planets in distant space and deep interiors

Feb 14, 2009

In recent years researchers have found hundreds of new planets beyond our solar system, raising questions about the origins and properties of these exotic worlds—not to mention the possible presence of life. Speaking at ...

Expectations For A Final Theory?

Oct 25, 2005

Martin Rees is Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge and Britain's Astronomer Royal. He is the author of numerous popular science books, including the bestselling Just Six Numbers: The Deep ...

New solar twin could shed light on another Earth

Mar 24, 2006

ANU (Australian National University) astronomers have discovered a nearby solar twin which may shed light on the search for planets that are similar to Earth and that may even support life. HD98618 is only ...

Recommended for you

Student to live in simulated space habitat

56 minutes ago

A Purdue University industrial engineering doctoral student is among six "crew members" spending the next eight months in a domed habitat on a volcanic landscape mimicking life on a Martian outpost.

The wake-up call that sent hearts racing

3 hours ago

"But as the minutes ticked by, the relaxed attitude of many of us began to dissolve into apprehension. Our levels of adrenaline and worry began to rise."

US-India to collaborate on Mars exploration

13 hours ago

The United States and India, fresh from sending their own respective spacecraft into Mars' orbit earlier this month, on Tuesday agreed to cooperate on future exploration of the Red Planet.

Swift mission observes mega flares from a mini star

13 hours ago

On April 23, NASA's Swift satellite detected the strongest, hottest, and longest-lasting sequence of stellar flares ever seen from a nearby red dwarf star. The initial blast from this record-setting series ...

Sandblasting winds shift Mars' landscape

18 hours ago

High winds are a near-daily force on the surface of Mars, carving out a landscape of shifting dunes and posing a challenge to exploration, scientists said Tuesday.

PanSTARRS K1, the comet that keeps going

20 hours ago

Thank you K1 PanSTARRS for hanging in there! Some comets crumble and fade away. Others linger a few months and move on. But after looping across the night sky for more than a year, this one is nowhere near ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Nov 15, 2009
What this development means is that religion, at least the Catholic religion, is finally and blessedly going through its own evolution, just like biological organisms, slowly but surely shedding past cumbersome structures and adapting new, more efficient ideas. I am extremely happy to see that the Vatican is interested in the Universe and the abundant life that it surely harbors. Finally, no more "we are the center of the universe" or "we are the only beings ever created". What a refreshing change in the weather! By showing scientific curiousity and healthy open-mindedness, the Vatican is poised to become the prime example of vibrant and exciting intellectual inquiry, showing the way for the rest of the world's religions, many of which unfortunately remain stuck in 12th. century darkness and bias.