The search for intelligent life has turned into the search for a place where intelligent life could exist. Or for that matter I think we’d settle for a place where any life at all, intelligent or otherwise, might be able to live. Barring the discovery of some sort of silicon-based lifeform scientists know that their best chance to find alien life is in looking for another planet with conditions like Earths. And they’re only, scientifically speaking, moments away from finding it.
NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope is busy discovering new planets in other solar systems. So far it’s found 750 planets in orbit around other suns. None of those have met the criteria to potentially be Earth-like, but several have been close. 2,300 additional extra-solar candidates tagged and awaiting examination and Shawn Domagal-Goldman, a researcher at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. tells Space.com we’re only 2 years away from finding a habitable planet.
They’re calling this type of planet a “Goldilocks” planet. In order to be classified as habitable and Earth-like a planet must be approximately the size of our planet and orbit its star at a distance which would allow the surface to support liquid water and perhaps life of the type we’re familiar with.
NASA is so confident that they’re on the verge of finding such a planet that they’re already working on ways to study it, when they do. Obviously we aren’t even close to being able to send an actual mission outside our solar system, we can’t even get to the moon anymore, but NASA has a few ideas anyway. Most of their examinations would involve different types of transit spectroscopy, in which the starlight bouncing off the Earthlike planet is scrutinized.