Life in the Universe - Is anybody out there?

We may not be alone in the universe
The discovery of planets orbiting other stars has fuelled the belief that we may not be alone in the universe
5 July 2001

PR 40-2001. The possibility that there is life elsewhere in the Universe has always excited the general public. Scientists are equally enthusiastic: physicists, biologists, chemists, cosmologists and astronomers all over Europe are researching the age-old question: is there other life in the Universe?

What is our understanding at the beginning of the 21st century? Is there any scientific evidence for other forms of life? How can you define life? What signs are we looking for? What would the reaction be if other forms of life were discovered?

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the European Space Agency and the European Southern Observatory, in cooperation with the European Association for Astronomy Education, have organised a competition to find out what young people in Europe think. The European Molecular Biology Laboratory and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility are also involved.

This "Life in the Universe" project is being mounted in collaboration with the research directorate of the European Commission for the European Week of Science and Technology in November this year. Competitions are already under way in 23 European countries to find the best projects from students aged between 14 and 19. Entries can be in one of two categories: scientific or artistic. The projects can, therefore, be essays, newspapers, websites, artworks, poetry or even a theatrical or musical performance.

Two winning teams from each country, one in each category, will be invited to a final event at CERN in Geneva on 8-11 November to present their projects to an international panel of experts at a special event devoting three days to enquiring into the possibility of other life forms existing in our Universe. This final event will be broadcast all over the world via the Internet. The home base of the project is a vibrant website Life in the Universe where details of the programme can be found. It is still under development but already has a wealth of information and links to national websites, where all entries are posted.

Is there other life in the Universe? We do not know - but the search is on!

For more information, please contact:

Helen Wilson
European Space Agency
ESTEC Education Office
Postbus 299
2200 AG Noordwijk
+31 71 565 5518 (tel)
+31 71 565 5590 (fax)

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