The Financial Express

'We are not alone in the universe'  

Shihab Sarkar   | Published: August 08, 2019 22:13:22 | Updated: August 18, 2019 20:05:17

'We are not alone in the universe'   

Alien spotters may have been inspired lately by the words of NASA scientist Kevin Hand in 2014 --- "We are not alone in the universe." He predicted the assumption would prove true in 20 years. The alien-fever is back and so is the one relating to UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) after a considerably longer silence on the fascinating subjects. They have kept younger generations spellbound for over six decades. The 21st century alien-craze has recently been sparked by a tip-off circulated online. It says a highly protected and top-secret US Air Force base in Nevada is in fact a facility engaged in experimenting with 'live aliens' and their technologies. Many flatly call it 'home to the aliens'. The news of the Nevada riddle spread like wildfire on the social media, bringing together 2.0 million people who have already signed up for a campaign to enter the base. The date for overrunning the Nevada 'alien home' has been fixed for September 20, 2019. Lots of overenthusiastic alien-buffs have started calling the event 'Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us'. Reacting to it, the US Air Force has vowed to resist attempts by frenzied people to swarm on the base and obstruct activities detrimental to its routine work.

The general belief about the 'Area 51' has it that it is an alien centre.  For decades the Nevada desert base has been the target of 'alien conspiracy theories'. The term 'Area 51' derives from the episode of a reported crash of an alien spacecraft near the Nevada base in 1951. No matter how the 'Area 51' frenzy ends finally, one thing will leave a lasting impact on the collective psyche of humanity. It comes in the form of man's unassailable belief in beings which inhabit the unknown segments of the vast universe.

In view of the abrupt resurgence of interest in aliens and UFOs, man's inherent curiosity about what lies in the outer zones of the universe doesn't seem unusual. In the second decade of the 21st century, scanning outer-space exoplanets with the help of unmanned space probes has become a normal activity on the part of the astrophysicists at different space centres, especially the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The astrophysicist circles in many countries are now busy taking an in-depth look at the prospects for existence of the 'aliens' or extraterrestrials. A modern pioneer of them was Stephen Hawking. He firmly believed the presence of the extraterrestrials. But he was different from other scientists. According to Hawking, the aliens may start visiting the Earth spurred by no menacing intention. The chief objective of their visiting our world will comprise the eagerness to know about the extent of technological, cultural and other achievements of the earthlings. As Hawking believed, the extraterrestrials would be friendly to humans. It stands in stark contrast to the frightening alien invaders of the Earth as portrayed in average sci-fi flicks.

As could be gleaned from the drawings of the scientifically-bent artists, the aliens most possibly are humanoids, especially in their looks. The extent of their intelligence-related capabilities, however, still remains unknown. The best representation of extraterrestrials from the outer space is the ageless and lovable alien in Steven Spielberg's movie 'E.T.' Both the UFO hunt and alien search were pioneered by the USA in the 1950s. That was the decade preceding the watershed 1960s. It was in this year when Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin landed on moon from their mother ship Apollo-11(July 21, 1969).

Following the conquest of the moon, the UFO furore among the aficionados began subsiding, until the alien fever gripped Hollywood in the 1980s. It began with the making of 'E.T. the Extra-terrestrial' by the master film maker Steven Spielberg. The following decades witnessed dozens of mega-budget outer space alien-monster movies, and those portraying crude wars between the aliens and the peoples of the Earth. Barring a few, most of them were driven by the urge to offer the viewers a new kind of movie concoction comprising thrill, suspense, fantasy and light dosage of horror. Those were far from any endeavour to engage in scientific probe into the existence of the extraterrestrials.

Inter-galactic war movies still reign supreme in the global movie industry. At the same time, a revival of scientific interest in the outer space and the general people's indomitable curiosity in aliens also emerges with equal force. Over-optimist people believing in life forms in the galaxies beyond ours expect the new living beings visiting the Earth in the 21st century. The scientific community in the developed countries nowadays seems more serious than before. The US space agency NASA remains centred on explorations of the different aspects of the lunar surface. In the following days, the Russian Federation, a lot of European countries, China, India and Japan --- all concentrated their focus on moon. The Russian space agency Roscosmos at the moment appears to have no grand programme on space exploration. Compared to it, the European Space Agency chalked out some mega programmes. Notable of them is the installation of space observatories to scan galaxies beyond ours. Japan plans a moon landing programme by 2021. Meanwhile, India sent an unmanned probe Chandrayaan-1 to moon in 2008. The country is poised to send its Chandrayaan-II probe in 2019 before shifting its focus to Mangalyaan. This programme is entirely centred on Mars, which has already been surveyed almost thoroughly by NASA.

US President Donald Trump appears to be determined to send a manned spacecraft to Mars, also called the red planet, in the near future. Over the last one decade, Mars has yielded scores of instances to prove the presence of life-forms on the planet. Beginning with dried-up marks of water flowing down steep rocks, presence of water in clouds, and that of ice beneath the rocky surface provide ample proofs of an atmosphere where life might be present. A unique feature of Mars is its storage of abundant water and ice that support the evolution of life. The most startling discovery by the NASA Mars probe is the planet had once been filled with turbulent rivers, which were wider than those flow on earth. Given the urgency attached to the Mars programme by the US space administration, landing of a manned craft on the planet doesn't seem far.

The USA is the country that has never given up on unravelling the mysteries and riddles that centre round the outer space. Of late its sphere of probe has expanded to zones beyond our known galaxies. These outer galactic searches nowadays offer the earthlings faint opportunities to receive signals from exoplanets, planets which are moving round their own suns. All of them have their own moons too. A few such moons have been said to have similarities with earth's atmosphere.

The present US administration is said to have been engaged in a lot of programmes targeting extraterrestrials. The other sectors including audio-visual media channels do not lag behind. Recently, the widely-viewed History Channel has dedicated a lengthy space to aliens. Theirs was different. The channel focused on the aliens who visited this distant earth in the Middle Ages or even earlier. Of late, the extraterrestrials are said to have abducted humans to their planets, conducted experiments on them and brought them back to their homes in their countries. The persons include ordinary people and even persons of the stature of even the president of a small territory in Russian Federation. The footage of interviews with the victims was supplemented by proofs of similar visits by aliens during the mythological times to countries like Cambodia.

One thing that could be gleaned from these pro-alien campaigns and media exposures is aliens have been living since ancient times in one or another galaxy. The question is whether they are at all interested to visit this earth. And if they are, whether their expeditions will be vengeful or full of curiosities about man and his attainments. Stephen Hawking propagating the latter possibility firmly believed that aliens basically were non-violent. However, the riddling aspect of the matter is apart from the USA, many other countries have joined the global club eager to receive signals from the aliens or locate them.



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