Jun 12, 2017 01:37 PM EDT
There seems to be a never-ending debate on whether extraterrestrial life exists. But according to Chris Impey, deputy head of astronomy at the University of Arizona, the answer to this age-old question may come quicker than we think.
But don't bother picturing Klingons. "I put my money on detecting microbial life in 10 to 15 years, but not at all detecting intelligent life," Impey said in an interview with Futurism.
Intelligent or not, Impey has given some insight on where to find E.T. His first suggestion? Our backyard, a.k.a. our own solar system.
While he says there may still be life on Mars, Impey claims we'd be more likely to find evidence of life that used to live on the Red Planet.
"If we actually get Mars rocks back here to Earth from a place that we think could have been habitable in the past, then we might find evidence of prior life," Impey told Futurism.
According to Impey, Mars isn't the only place we should be looking. In fact, there may be signs of life on the water world Europa - the smallest of the Galilean moons orbiting Jupiter.
Within the next few years, scientists should be able to use the James Web Space Telescope to look for biomarkers such as methane and oxygen in the atmospheres of these other Earth-like planets, he says.
"This biomarker experiment...could find evidence of microbial life indirectly," he explained.
In addition to finding other life beyond Earth, Impey also believes humans have the ability to live outside of our home planet.
In a 2015 interview with Fresh Air's Terry Gross, Impey mentioned the possibility of humans inhabiting outer space.
"I think we might actually be living on the moon and Mars," Impey said. "Maybe not many of us, but we might have our first bases there. We'd have robust commercial space activity or people routinely in orbit. America wouldn't have had a hiatus of four years and counting when we couldn't get astronauts into space. It would be probably quite different."
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