For as long as humans have been contemplating space, we've been fascinated by the possibility of other life out there, and of making contact with it. It's an ongoing and legitimate research field for the world's space agencies and research groups including NASA and Australia's CSIRO. In fact, according to Dr Douglas Bock, the CSIRO's director of Astronomy and Space Science, the CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope is currently about to be used as part of the Breakthrough Listen project -- the organisational board includes Mark Zuckerberg -- to search for extraterrestrial intelligence (known as the SETI programme).
"We'll be searching for extraterrestrial life using radio and optical telescopes," said Dr Bock. $100 million of US money has been committed to the project over ten years. "What we're looking for is the signs of life that we give off. So if you had a radio telescope on a nearby planet you could detect things equivalent to our TV antennas or airport radars. If you found signals like that you'd potentially have found extraterrestrial life." Clearly some fine minds -- as well as the committed UFO buffs -- are keen to know if there's anyone, or anything, out there.
Do aliens actually exist?
According to Mariana Flynn, spokesperson for UFO Research (NSW) Incorporated, the answer is of course yes. "It's arrogant to think that humans are the only intelligent life form in the universe. It's important to understand or acknowledge that there are potentially many thousands of planets and species out there in advance of us. We just need to make contact," she said.
Will we get a definitive answer either way in our lifetime?
With the hundreds of millions of dollars being poured into extraterrestrial research, the hope amongst experts is that yes, we will have a definitive answer -- one day. However, Dr Bock believes it's unlikely to occur in our lifetime. "We don't even know how common life is or how many planets exist that might have the capacity to support life, meaning, that they have water and some form of energy source and are roughly the right temperature. But NASA and the SETI programme are aiming to answer the question as soon as possible," he said.
What actually suggests the existence of other life forms?
"Sightings of UFOs or lights in the sky. UFOR would get a couple of reports a week -- in NSW alone," said Flynn. "Sightings are most commonly described as strange silent lights flying erratically in the low horizon. There are also sightings hot spots in NSW -- the northern beaches is one area and what's called the extraterrestrial highway -- which runs between the Mudgee, Dubbo, Dunedoo area. It's believed there's a quartz line running underground there and the UFO's are attracted to crystals. Kiama is also another hotspot. The contactee phenomenon is also very compelling"
If contact were made today what would be the most likely to learn about other life forms?
"When definitive contact is made, I think we'd be most likely to learn that extraterrestrials have advanced technology and will show us medical breakthroughs that will transform life on earth," said Flynn. " I don't believe other lifeforms will be less advanced than we are because they'll be able to come to earth faster than the speed of light, which we are not capable of at this stage."
What is extraterrestrial life most likely to look like?
"It's a great unknowable," says Dr Bock. "But we're assuming that implicitly it looks like us. In the SETI programme we're looking for life that looks like us. It may not be right but it's a base starting point." Is there anybody out there? It seems the experts and fascinated believers are convinced we will make contact.
If we make contact with alien life, how will we communicate with them? When space crafts appear across the globe, expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and her team attempt to decipher the mysterious language used by the extraterrestrial crafts. But are they friend or foe? And will Banks find out in time? Arrival is in cinemas across Australia from November 10. Find out more at arrivalmovie.com