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Do Now

Do you think it is important for scientists to be searching for signs of extraterrestrial life?  Why or why not?


On December 5, 2011, NASA announced the discovery of a planet in a “habitable zone”—a region around a star that is the right temperature (not too hot and not too cold) for liquid water to exist.  This planet, called Kepler-22b, is the first to be found that approximates Earth in its size and distance from its sun.

The purpose of NASA’s Kepler Mission is to survey part of the Milky Way galaxy to find Earth-size planets in the habitable zone and figure out how many of the stars in our galaxy have planets like this.  This is done using a specially-designed spacecraft telescope (called “Kepler”). The Kepler mission will last a minimum of 3 ½ years and costs about $600 million.

The SETI Institute is a non-profit organization with the mission of searching for signs of extra terrestrial life.  It has been in existence since 1985 and manages the Allen Telescope Array, This grouping of telescopes, located in Shasta County, California, searches our galaxy and other galaxies for radio signals that would suggest that life exists elsewhere in the Universe.


NPR segment Found: Earth-Like Planet That Might Be Right For Life.
Scientists have discovered a planet not too much bigger than Earth that’s circling a distant star that’s much like our own sun. What’s more, this planet is in the “Goldilocks zone” around that star — a region that’s not too hot and not too cold. That’s the kind of place that could be home to liquid water and maybe even life.

To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #KQEDDoNow

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

More Resources for Follow-up Lessons

QUEST’s Planet Hunters on PBS LearningMedia The Inhabitable Zone:
The search for life on distant planets in the universe has spurred scientists to more carefully explore the conditions of our own planet Earth and what characteristics and conditions allow us to live in relative balance within the structure of the solar system.

QUEST segment SETI: The New Search for ET
Is anyone out there? For over 40 years scientists have been searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, but they’ve found nothing. Now the new Allen Telescope Array, a string of 350 radio telescopes, is being built 300 miles north of San Francisco and is breathing new life into the search. Find out why SETI scientists now say we might be hearing from ET sooner than you think.


Andrea Aust

Andrea is the Senior Manager of Science Education for KQED. In addition to QUEST, she's had the pleasure of coordinating education and outreach for the public television series Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures and the four-hour documentary Saving the Bay. Andrea graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Environmental Science and earned her M.A. in Teaching and Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from the University of San Francisco. Prior to KQED, she taught, developed, and managed marine science and environmental education programs in Aspen, Catalina Island and the Bay Area. Follow her on Twitter at @KQEDaust.

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