For thousands of years man has marveled at the mysteries of the starry heavens. Today he scans the universe, awestruck by its fathomlessness-yearning as never before to understand where he fits in the cosmos. What secrets lie beyond the distant realm of the spiral nebulae? Is there life out there? Or is life unique to our own planet Earth?
A patch of flat ground, a clear sky overhead and two good eyes. For millennia these were the only tools of astronomy available to our ancestors. Their awareness of the universe was limited to about 1,000 luminous objects in the night sky that were visible to the naked eye. Many long-dead civilizations conceived of the earth as being flat and of the sky as an inverted bowl composed of a solid substance that shielded the earth. Most People have lived and died with scant knowledge of the awesome proportions of our universe. Indeed, they were usually more worried about the prospects of falling off the end of a flat earth. Concepts like "no end," or "forever," or "endless," were beyond the comprehension of our forebears. Man appeared to live in a bowl-like universe with the sky as a domed roof and the earth as a flat bottom. Finally by 350 B.C., truly educated men knew that the earth was spherical in shape. But it took another 2,000 years to fathom its true size. Without what you've learned about modern astronomy, you would be little better off than an ancient Israelite scanning the skies in the days of Moses. Even on a clear night you couldn't count any more stars than he did. Casual observation is of little help in comprehending the dimensions of outer space. Of course, you couldn't help but be inspired by the Milky Way appearing like a star-studded ribbon across the sky, or by Orion and the Big Dipper. But you would still be baffled as to their size and their distance from the earth. However, some men have always looked at the starry heavens with intelligent eyes. They began to notice that a few of the heavenly bodies moved in relation to the stars and were closer to different stars at different times. These wandering celestial bodies were termed planets by the Greeks. We call them "planets" today. Still men conceived of the earth as the real center of the universe. That is, until the research of Nicolaus Copernicus in the sixteenth century. Knowing that the earth, in fact, circled the sun, he postulated that the sun was the probable center of the universe. Today knowledge about the universe is exploding at a fantastic, unimaginable rate. Sophisticated spacecraft and highly sensitive radio telescopes have revolutionized astronomy and increased our desire to solve the haunting question of whether intelligent beings exist on other worlds. The fairly recent discovery of pulsars and quasars revealed that the heavens are much more exciting, mysterious and violent than we previously imagined in our wildest dreams. Questions of origin and eternity are intriguing man as never before. He wonders why there is no solid evidence of life on other planets. Mathematically speaking, the odds often seem in its favor.
The Known Evidence
The recent Viking expedition to Mars is just one more example of man's intense interest in the possible discovery of life beyond the confines of the earth. In the summer of 1976, American scientists sent two highly sophisticated spacecraft to the mysterious red planet. Shortly after touchdown, the Viking lander sent stunningly clear pictures of the Martian surface to radio telescopes on earth. Picture after picture showed a stark, rock-strewn surface which looked remarkably like a desert scene in the American Southwest. One of our Plain Truth editors talked with Dr. Gerald A. Soffen, chief project scientist for the Viking mission to Mars. When asked about the chances for life on Mars, Dr. Soffen said that odds were small, but not zero. Though scientists are still debating the data from the Viking project, one did say that so far nothing has been detected that really could be considered biological life. He concluded that Mars, like the moon, Venus and Mercury, is a very, very dead place. Based on recent findings, scientists
Astronomers have probed the universe to a distance of about 100,000 billion billion miles. Yet they have been unable to find the edge of the universe.
have speculated (and not without evidence) that Mars once had an earth like atmosphere. They had long suspected that the Martian surface was the best locale to look for life in our solar system. But notwithstanding the fact that Mars is both geologically and meteorologically active, the evidence for biological life is negative. And if there is no life on the red planet, the chances are virtually nil for life on Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, and Pluto.
Life Beyond Our Solar System?
But what about life in the far-flung "limits" of outer space? In 1972 man's first attempt at written communication with alien intelligence occurred when a special aluminum plaque was attached to the Pioneer 10 space probe. This plaque symbolically describes the origin of the spacecraft as well as graphically portraying a man and a woman. The more recent Voyager probes, now on their way to the outer limits of our solar system, also carry recordings of earth sounds. It is hoped that extraterrestrial beings will someday find these tiny spacecraft and listen to our message. But space probes are far less likely to communicate with extraterrestrial life than radio telescopes right here on earth. One good example is the Goldstone radio telescope near Barstow, California. Here radio signals from sources in outer space are being monitored by means of a giant, steerable 210-foot antenna. This awesome antenna has actually communicated with the Viking lander at a distance of over 200 million miles. Incredible as it may seem, radio telescopes can detect radio signals from over ten million million billion miles away. So scientists are constantly listening for intelligible signals emanating from other galaxies deep in the far-flung expanse of the universe. Astronomers have been hoping to detect such signals since 1960 when Frank Drake first used a giant radio telescope to monitor radio waves from nearby stars. Since then the sensitivity of such equipment has grown enormously. Astronomer Gerrit Verschuur recently scanned ten nearby stars for signs of life. His apparatus was so sensitive that it could find in five minutes what Drake's equipment required twenty days to detect. Yet up to this time, no unexpected signals from outer space have ever been detected! Still, man persists in probing the universe with giant telescopes like the one on Mount Wilson in Southern California. So far, using the largest and most sophisticated telescopes, astronomers have probed the universe to a distance of about 100,000 billion billion miles. Yet astronomers have been unable to find the edge of the universe. Perhaps it is endless; no one knows.
The Fortunate Generation
Our fascination with the mysteries of the heavens is exceeded only by our never-ending desire to understand the fundamental question of what this human experience is all about. We live in a very fortunate generation. Not only have we entered an era in astronomy when physical knowledge of the universe is expanding beyond our comprehension, but revealed knowledge about the true origins of man, the earth and the universe is increasingly becoming available to an ever growing number of people. You are a spark of life in the universe. Your potential is truly awesome! You are a potential dynamo! But the physical universe of itself will not reveal the source of that great power to you. It has already been revealed by a Super Intelligence somewhere in the confines of outer space. You see, there are intelligent creatures that occupy a different dimension in the cosmos. And these beings from outer space have visited this earth and have even left certain documents and records to prove it. Popular writer Erich von Daniken has written that the earth has had extraterrestrial visitors and that they have left definite indications of their visits, if only men would take the trouble to look at the evidence. But the records and documents I'm writing about do not have to be found in unexplored ruins deep in the jungles of Guatemala or Honduras. They do not have to be sought for in remote caves hidden in the Libyan desert. More than likely you have a personal collection of these records and documents right there in your own living room. I think you know what particular Book I'm talking about. Man's ultimate destiny lies in whether or not he gets into contact with the great Superior Being residing somewhere in outer space. If any person ever really makes that contact, it can change his whole life's direction. If you wish to discover what this human life is all about, why there is a universe, and if spaceship Earth is a possible platform for future exploration into space, then write for our free article entitled "When a Man from Space Visited Earth."
Why Were You Born? To live, die, and ultimately go to heaven, hell or someplace in between? Or to fulfill the most exciting, mind-boggling destiny imaginable? To find out, read these free booklets Why Were You Born? and Our Awesome Universe.