Change to Planetarium schedule

From 1st October, the Planetarium show times will run on a new timetable. Weekends - Space Safari: 11am, The Sky Tonight: 11.45am & 4.15pm, Solar Superstorms: 12.30pm & 2.45pm, Meet the Neighbours: 1.15pm & 3.30pm.

Aliens visiting Earth is a recurring theme throughout our sci-fi planetarium screenings, often with dire consequences for our planet. Can the science of astrobiology shed any light on what their true motives would be? Lewis Dartnell reveals more. 

As an astrobiologist I spend a lot of my time working in the lab with samples from some of the most extreme places on Earth, investigating how life might survive on other worlds in our solar system and what signs of their existence we could detect. We’re all familiar with Hollywood’s darker depictions of what aliens might do when they come to the Earth: zapping the White House, harvesting humanity for food like a herd of cattle, or sucking our oceans dry, but I think considering these possibilities is a great way of exploring many of the core themes of the science of astrobiology.
 
Earth as seen from space, NASA
Earth as seen from space, NASA
 
Alien civilisations may be drawn to the Earth for our wonderfully wet oceans and seas and rivers - to siphon off our hydrological cycle. Or perhaps they would come to the Earth for our exceptional plate tectonics and concentration of particular metals, and the fact that the same tectonics had also enabled a rich biosphere to develop would be merely an inconvenience. On the other hand, the very fact that Earth is already teeming with its own life (most of which is tenacious microbes that affect the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans) may well be a hindrance to an alien species, with its own quirky biochemistry, looking for somewhere to colonise. It may well be easier to find a terrestrial world that hasn’t already developed life of its own, and install its own biosphere on an empty planet. 
 
Panoramic View From 'Rocknest' Position of Curiosity Mars Rover (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)
Mars as seen by the Curiosity Mars Rover (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)
 
The fact that Earth’s oxygen-rich atmosphere has apparently attracted no one’s attention may simply be because life is so rare that there is not a single other civilisation in the Galaxy with us to have their attention drawn. Or perhaps planets with an oxygen-rich atmosphere are so staggeringly common that the Earth just doesn’t stand out. The most exciting aspect of our research is that within your and my lifetime we will have launched atmosphere-reading space telescopes, and the science of astrobiology will have been able to tell which one is right.
 
The above blog is an extract from Jim Al-Khalili’s book Aliens.

The Day the Earth Stood Still Competition

We've teamed up with Profile Books to celebrate our sci-fi series by offering two lucky attendees of our next planetarium screening a copy of their book. To be in with a chance of winning simply come along on Saturday, 28 January and keep your eyes peeled!