Cassandra Sharples, of Port Chalmers School, asks :-

Georgina Guthrie, of Musselburgh School, asked:-

Do aliens exist?

Frank Andrews, an astronomer at the Carter Observatory in Wellington, responded.

As astronomers have discovered more about how our Sun and other stars formed we see that everything indicates the probability that most small single stars like the Sun should have planets orbiting them.

We now know that the clouds of dusty hydrogen from which stars and planets form contain organic molecules which are similar to the basic building blocks from which living things are made. All this suggests that planets capable of supporting life and perhaps intelligence should be reasonably common amongst the thousands of millions of stars in the Milky Way.

Planets are very small and faint when compared to stars and until recently telescopes have not been powerful enough to detect planets orbiting other stars. With the Hubble Space Telescope and the mighty 10 metre Keck Telescope in Hawaii astronomers are hoping to be able to see planets orbiting nearby stars. If found this should greatly increase the possibility of there being extra-terrestial life and possibly intelligent "aliens".

While the astronomical evidence all suggests that life should exist beyond Earth we have to realise that, as yet, there is no scientific proof of the existence of aliens. We will all have to wait and see what the new "Super-Telescopes'' can find. For us to be entirely unique and alone in this vast universe would surely be stranger than discovering that aliens exist.