In October 2018 NASA’s steadfast extraterrestrial-hunter, the pioneering Kepler Space Telescope, ceased collecting data. Indeed, the $600 million space observatory, which by this time had identified thousands of extraterrestrial planets, had inexplicably gone into sleep mode. And so, back on Earth, Kepler scientists scrambled to find out why.
From Star Trek to Star Wars, the idea of alien planets has been explored and expounded by science fiction for decades. However, scientists have yet to confirm the existence of even simple extraterrestrial life – let alone the grandiose alien civilizations depicted in our favorite sci-fi. Nonetheless, astronomical evidence of exoplanets – that is, planets orbiting stars outside our solar system – suggests a strong likelihood of alien life out there somewhere.
It was only after the invention of the telescope in the 17th century that hard evidence of other planets was finally discovered. Copernican astronomy entered mainstream thought, banishing the widespread notion that Earth was the center of the universe. Indeed, thanks to modern cosmology, the belief in worlds other than our own – an idea known as “cosmic pluralism” – is now widespread.