Robert’s column

Robert’s column

Robert Barron column: Are we alone?

We’re now confident that the universe is even bigger than first thought

I seem to have become the go-to guy for anyone seeing strange lights in the night sky.

A couple of years ago, the newspaper began to receive reports of strings of lights in the skies above the Cowichan Valley.

One guy said he saw a line of lights all travelling at the same speed and direction, from north west to south east, one night over Cowichan Bay.

Another sky watcher from Shawnigan Lake said he was standing on his porch at dusk one evening around the same time as the first sightings when he saw a string of lights appear on the horizon behind the lake.

He said there were at least 100 of them and they seemed to grow smaller as he watched, which gave him the impression they were gaining altitude.

There were more sightings of strings of lights from other areas as well, so I knew something was up, but wasn’t convinced it was as a result of extraterrestrials.

I began to do some quick research and discovered that SpaceX, the American spacecraft manufacturer owned by billionaire Elon Musk, launched its first 60 Starlink satellites, which were hoped to eventually provide affordable internet access to people around the world, into orbit at around the same time the mysterious strings of lights were seen in local skies.

According to SpaceX, about 800 satellites are needed for just “moderate” coverage, so the company has been launching them in groups into orbit ever since.

I wrote about this fact at the time, thinking that this should dampen down the belief that squadrons of aliens are zooming above our heads planning and carrying out all kinds of nefarious activities on Earth.

But to this day, I’m still receiving emails from people talking about more strings of lights in the sky, and coming up with any number of wild theories as to what they are.

I’m not a complete skeptic around this subject.

With new discoveries about our universe being made all the time, thanks to rapidly improving technology that has created such scientific marvels as the Hubble and James Webb telescopes, we’re now confident that the universe is even bigger than first thought, with hundreds of billions of galaxies out there each containing hundreds of billions of stars and maybe even more planets.

Even if just one planet in each galaxy in the universe was capable of developing intelligent (?) life like us, then there are still hundreds of billions of planets out there that could have beings capable of building spaceships to travel to the stars, and even here.

The newly launched James Webb telescope can even detect what gases are in the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars than our sun, and they are already finding that those planets are very similar to those in our own solar system, so I imagine it’s only a matter of time before it sniffs out evidence if life, like oxygen and methane, on some of those planets.

But it’s a big leap from a planet having simple life forms, like the bacteria and viruses that covered Earth for billions of years, to developing into complex life forms like us.

Many scientists believe there are likely many planets with simple life forms out there, but probably not many where multi-cellular species like us could develop for any variety of reasons.

The fact that we have no real definitive proof that any intelligent alien species have ever visited Earth seems to speak to the truth of that.

If the universe was full of species similar to us, we should have seen some evidence of that by now.

While I do believe that intelligent aliens exist out there, I expect that they are way too few and far away in time and space to likely ever to be able to make contact with us.

But I think it’s worth it to keep looking and watching just in case.

One day, maybe sightings of strings of light in the sky will be the real deal.

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