All within the universe
Those interested in seeing the telescope can attend a UMBC Telescope Open House, which are held on the first Thursday of every month. Email observatory@umbc.edu for more information. Photo by Victor Gee.

All within the universe

Venus can be seen faintly from the UMBC observatory rooftop when the sun sets. Through the giant telescope of the UMBC observatory room, many stars and planets can be observed. However, many more mentions and observations of activity outside of the planet Earth have been investigated through astronomy.

Extraterrestrial life or intelligence can be searched for with modern technology on this Earth. Roy Prouty, a UMBC graduate atmospheric physics major, hosted a brand new observatory event focused on a more specific concept known as the Fermi paradox. The Fermi paradox is the description of what could potentially be out in space, traversing other planets.

One term that had the attention of the attendees was the Drake equation. “The Drake equation is the number of civilizations with which we can communicate,” said Prouty. He had also explained the Kepler space telescope and how it allows scientists to see exoplanets, planets that are not orbiting the sun.

“When scientist look for exoplanets through the Kepler space telescope, they are looking at the brightness of a star for a long period of time,” said Prouty.

A visual and evident sign of a planet can be seen if the bright light of the star dips in brightness. This act represents an asteroid or a comet shooting out into orbit around a planet, obstructing the line of view. This also gives scientists a very broad understanding of the Fermi paradox in that civilizations could potentially be out there.

However, this also gave scientists a disadvantage when surveying space for activity. When that brightness dims, it must be observed again for consistency of revolving. The wait could take anywhere from months to years.

Even with the current technology, the observations of scientists on extraterrestrial life outside of Earth has so far been negative. The breakout that people believed turned out to be incorrect with later evidence. That is what makes the Fermi paradox a paradox. “A paradox is something that seems to be logically true, but turns out to be observed as false,” explained Prouty.

However, what if there is something or someone out there watching the Earth and observing people through their so-called technology? This approach to space takes into account that humans are the subjects to a much greater group. This is known as the zoo hypothesis. Prouty said, “the zoo hypothesis states that there is a much higher hierarchical group that observes the Earth.”

After wrapping up the lecture on the Fermi paradox, Prouty allowed attendees to ask questions or discuss if they wanted to. Most of the attendees started a discussion as they headed out through the exit door. Nedu Igboemeka, a junior biology major, spoke about his time attending the event. “I thought that this event was pretty, being my first time attending an observatory event. I learned much regarding extraterrestrial intelligence.”

“An event like this will take place next month […] I would like to attend that too,” said Igboemeka.