Unlocking the Universe: One Step Closer to Discovering Extraterrestrial Life

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“We are closer to finding life” outside Earth, according to Brazilian astronaut Laysa Peixoto. Speaking at the CCXP23 Unlock event, Peixoto shared her experiences and scientific findings, emphasizing that discovering life on other planets is just a matter of time. As the first Brazilian to command an aircraft from NASA at the age of 19, Peixoto now works at NASA’s L’SPACE Academy, developing space exploration technologies and undergoing training to become the first Brazilian woman in space.

Peixoto firmly believes in the possibility of intelligent life in the universe on a personal level. She also highlights the scientific belief that we are edging closer to finding various forms of life, even those that have not yet been identified. Contrary to science fiction movies and TV shows, Peixoto explains that there are many different forms of life in space, not limited to the fictional concept of “smart life” portrayed in popular media.

The importance of water for life is undeniable, and it has been found on several planets. Peixoto expresses hope that future expeditions will reveal the existence of life on Mars. Drawing a comparison with the planet Arrakis from the novel Dune, Peixoto emphasizes the fascination of astrophysicists and astronomers with planets that possess distinct characteristics. She explains that there is a strong possibility of planets completely covered by water, which opens up exciting possibilities for discovering new forms of life.

Representation is another crucial aspect for Peixoto. Inspired by Nobel laureate Andrea Ghez, who won the 2020 physics prize for her black hole research, Peixoto believes that increasing the representation of women in science, particularly in astronomy and astrophysics, is essential. She argues for a change in how scientists, including women, are portrayed in movies and TV shows, calling for the inclusion of more female scientists and explorers.

Moreover, Peixoto stresses the importance of programs and projects that promote knowledge about the overlooked contributions of women in science. She believes it is crucial for children and teenagers to see themselves represented and to understand that people like them can achieve great heights. Many women scientists have had their stories erased or overshadowed, and it is vital to rectify this historical injustice.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Peixoto became involved in a space-related research project. She learned to use various software for analyzing different aspects of astronomy, a skill that led her to discover a new asteroid at the age of 18. Collaborating with The International Astronomical Search Collaboration program, which also works with NASA, Peixoto’s initials were included in the name of the asteroid, LPS0003. She spent eight months analyzing the images to identify the asteroid, highlighting that this process is not a quick one. Peixoto explains that large telescopes on Earth provide the images necessary for analysis, and although many astronomers have their own analysis programs, it is also possible for anyone at home to undertake space picture analysis using certain software.

Peixoto references the movie “Don’t Look Up” to emphasize the reality that asteroids pose a potential threat to human civilization. While movies may exaggerate the drama, monitoring and tracking celestial bodies passing through our solar system is crucial to mitigate the risk of them colliding with Earth. Peixoto acknowledges that there is always a possibility of an asteroid striking our planet.

Despite initially studying physics at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), Peixoto joined the NASA program through her involvement in asteroid research. With the support of Manhattan University, she was able to embark on a career in astronomy within the United States government agency. Her passion for space exploration and dedication to her field have propelled her on a remarkable journey, making her an inspiring figure for aspiring scientists and explorers worldwide.

In conclusion, Laysa Peixoto’s insights shed light on the exciting advancements being made in space exploration and the potential for discovering extraterrestrial life. Her calls for increased representation of women in science and recognition of their contributions serve as a reminder that diversity and inclusivity are vital for progress in all fields. Through her own achievements, Peixoto exemplifies the immense possibilities that exist beyond Earth’s atmosphere and encourages others to dream big and reach for the stars.