Search for life on other planets must wait for a ‘plan’, scientists say

Scientists say a search for life on other planets should be the top priority if human beings want to discover how life came to be on Earth

Scientists are asking for a moratorium on discovering life on other planets until they can agree a plan to search for life on other worlds – and not just on Earth.

Giant telescopes in Australia, Chile and Arizona are being fitted with technology capable of simultaneously scanning billions of stars in our galaxy and the galaxy beyond for telltale telltale signs of life.

Some scientists insist the global search for intelligent life in space should be the global top priority in astronomy, but others say the planet-searching set-up is better suited to earth.

Experts will meet this weekend in Chile to discuss a resolution that encourages astronomers to explore all non-earthly, Earth-bound targets.

A draft resolution from the meeting of the International Astronomical Union says: “As researchers of the universe, we need to be at the forefront in our research for finding signs of life in its huge range of processes and signs of natural phenomena.”

Scientists hope that the early stages of the global set-up “consolidates a broad consensus, so that it will be possible to systematically search for signs of life across the galactic neighbourhood”.

However, some hope the set-up could be used for planet-hunting alone.

Matthew Knight, of Arizona State University, said: “If everyone were to agree that planet searches are going to be our top priority, this would go a long way towards ensuring that future human settlement of Mars will take place on alien worlds.”

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