Astronomers Use New Methods in Search of Life in Our Universe

Astronomers are continuing their search for life in the universe with new methods. Recently they have started to pinpoint stars that have planets where life may be found. As there are billions of such stars outside our solar system there may be a chance of finding life. Every star has, on average, 1.6 planets orbiting them.

Up to now astronomers have located about 400 stars that have the building blocks of life - primarily the existence of liquid water. Only a handful has already been examined but, up to now, nothing has been found.



One of them, Gliese 581, is currently under observation by astronomers. It is a red dwarf star, one of the most common in the Milky Way, about 20 light years away from Earth. Gliese 581 is about 10 billion years old and has a mass that is only a third of our sun’s. Of the six planets orbiting around the star, two of them may have Earth-like features. One of them is about three or four times as big as our Earth and the right distance away from its sun to have life.

Australian astronomers have started to take a closer look at Gliese 581 by combining radio signals of several telescopes that are far apart from each other. Although the result was negative, the astronomers found out that this method provided an effective way of scanning the universe, one small section at a time. It allows them to observe the area with great accuracy.

Patience is required by astronomers because hundreds of thousands of searches of this kind must be done before there may be a positive result.



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  • accuracy = correctness; very exact
  • although = while
  • astronomer = a scientist who studies the stars and the planets
  • billion = a thousand million
  • building blocks = the pieces which together make it possible for something to exist
  • combine = put together
  • common = widespread; exists very often
  • distance = space
  • dwarf = very small
  • effective = something that really works
  • examine = to look at very closely
  • existence = if something can be found
  • feature = characteristic , quality
  • light year = the distance that light travels in a year
  • liquid = fluid, watery
  • mass = large amount
  • observe = watch
  • on average = usually, normally
  • orbit = to go around
  • patience = to be able to do something for a long time before you get positive results
  • pinpoint = to find the exact location of something
  • primarily = mainly, most importantly
  • provide = offer, give
  • recently = shortly
  • required = needed
  • scan = look at carefully but very quickly
  • several = many
  • solar system = the sun and the planets that go around it