Image credit: ESO
One of the significant areas is -- you guessed it! -- planet hunting. Here's what Falk wrote:
"TEEMING WITH PLANETS Astronomers are closing in on identifying distant worlds that may have the right conditions to support life. Techniques for detecting "exoplanets" are becoming more sophisticated, and over 400 have been discovered so far-- 30 in October alone. This year brought two particularly intriguing finds. One is Gliese 581d, orbiting a star at a distance that could indicate surface temperatures not so different from Earth's. Astronomers also discovered a "waterworld" composed mostly of H2O, which would be a prime candidate for extraterrestrial life if it were just a little farther from its sun.
The discovery of Earth-like planets, with water and moderate temperatures, is now so likely that the Vatican held a conference of astrobiologists this year to discuss the theological repercussions of extraterrestrial life. . .
Discovering that we have company in the universe, in fact, might open our eyes to what's important on Earth."
Geoff Marcy, the astronomer in my book, echoes this idea. "Imagine finding another species that we can communicate with, that we can share our art, music, and literature with, and that might unite us as people."
Finding intelligent life will profoundly affect humanity in ways we cannot even fathom. In the meantime, I'm going to try to tune out the extra noise.
You can read William Falk's New York Times article here:
SHOULD OLD ARTICLES BE FORGOT