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In "The Day the Earth Stood Still," a remake of the 1951 science-fiction classic, an alien named Klaatu (played

by Keanu Reeves, right) visits Earth to save us humans from ourselves. The story is a work of science fiction, with the emphasis on fiction, says Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute and a technical adviser on the film. For example, to be able to detect a dangerous buildup of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and come save us from global warming, an alien that could travel at light speed would have to reside no more than about 50 light-years away. "I doubt that there are any aliens that close," Shostak says. And even if there are, "they might not care about our problems." Scientific accuracy aside, Shostak says the film could hook a new generation on space science, just as the original film helped direct his career, which is dedicated to the search for E.T. As kids stumble out of the theater, they might ask, do aliens exist? Click the "Next" arrow above to explore the evidence, from the scientifically plausible to the incredible. With so many stars, alien life is probable

Shostak notes that there is no direct proof for any life beyond Earth, but the universe is home to a lot of stars. And as research over the past decade has shown, perhaps at least 50 percent of those stars harbor planets. Shostak estimates there are 1 trillion planets in the Milky Way alone. "Surely some of them have undergone what Earth has undergone and developed life, and eventually what we call sentient life," he says. The argument, he notes, is simply one of probability. "If we are the only intelligent beings in the galaxy, or for that matter in the universe, then we are truly a miracle," he says. This image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows a cluster of young stars in the Milky Way.
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Water worlds abound in our solar system

NASA/jpl/space Science Institute

Water is a key ingredient for life as we know it. And liquid water, it turns out, is fairly common in our local solar system. For example, evidence is mounting that liquid water may flow underneath the surface of Mars. Europa, a moon of Jupiter, appears to have a liquid ocean. So too might the Jovian moons Callisto and Ganymede. Saturn's moons Titan and Enceladus, shown here, may be watery. Even Venus might have a bit of liquid water in its atmosphere. "There you already have seven other worlds that might have liquid water, just in our backyard. So that's kind of encouraging news," Shostak says. Life evolved 'quickly' on Earth
Abigail Allwood

Scientists estimate that planet Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. The earliest evidence for life comes from 3.4 billion-year-old mats of bacteria called stromatolites in Australia. Since even bacteria are biologically complex, scientists think they arose from life forms that got a foothold on Earth even earlier. "That suggests it wasn't terribly improbable, the evolution of life, because it happened very quickly," Shostak says. The caveat, of course, is that Earth could have won the evolutionary equivalent of the lottery, and no place else is quite so lucky. Life thrives in extreme environments
G. Wanger / JCVI / G. Southam /

Almost everywhere scientists go on Earth, they find life: the cold, dark depths of the oceans; snuggled up to piping-hot hydrothermal vents; buried under the Antarctic ice; and in South America's parched Atacama Desert. "Life can adapt to really tough conditions and, of course, most of the universe is going to be filled with habitats that are tough," Shostak says. For example, Mars is a harsh environment, but some of the microbes found on Earth, including the one shown here found deep in a mine, could survive beneath the surface of the Red Planet, he notes. These findings of so-called extremophiles have allowed scientists to scale back their list of requirements for extraterrestrial life. "We just say it has to have some liquid water, and maybe that's it," Shostak says.
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E.T. might be calling from afar

Courtesy of Jerry Ehman / Bigear

Shostak and his colleagues at the SETI Institute frequently harness some of the world's largest radio telescopes to home in on distant stars for a telltale signal of alien communications. Although their searches have raised a few alarms, the signals have been dismissed as human-caused interference, such as noise from a passing satellite. Contact remains elusive. Undaunted, the scientists keep searching. Meanwhile, a signal detected on Aug. 15, 1977, during a search with Ohio State University's Big Ear Observatory, continues to pique interest because it has never been explained. "It was impressive enough to encourage the astronomer who found it to write 'Wow!' on the printout," says Shostak. Follow-up experiments to detect it again, however, have failed. "You can say it was E.T. and then he went off the air. You may never know," Shostak says. "But it is not science to say it was E.T." Some see evidence that 'aliens' have visited
Justin Norton / AP

Somewhere around half the people in the U.S. believe that aliens have already visited us. To back their claims, witnesses have presented snapshots of flying saucers and debris from crash landings. None of the evidence, however, convinces Shostak. Nor does he buy into theories that the world's governments are coordinated and efficient enough to collectively keep what would be the world's biggest secret. "That's hard for me to believe," he says. Such doubt does little to stop the tide of tourists coming to places such as Roswell, N.M., the site of a purported UFO crash more than 60 years ago. This fake alien at a museum is a commonly photographed attraction.

Whether aliens exist or not is a question that everyone has been pondering over for quite a few years now. There are a lot of eminent people who insist that aliens are real and support their claim with a lot of very convincing examples. Aliens visiting the Earth and befriending or destroying mankind has been a topic of many popular science-fiction movies and every time we come out of a movie theater after watching a film that is alien centered we end up asking ourselves 'do aliens exist?', 'are aliens real?'. Well, films aside, there is now some pretty scientific proof that aliens actually do exist and we might just be visited by our friends from other planets sometime in the future. 5 Convincing Proofs 1) With numerous stars, alien life is probable: Although there is no direct proof the aliens exist, it is notable that the universe is home to a lot of stars and past research has shown that at least 50% of these stars harbor planets. Scientists have estimated that there are about a trillion planets in the Milky Way alone. It is very much possible that at least some out of these planets have undergone changes like the Earth and developed life. 2) Water occurs on planets other than Earth: Water, as we all know, is very important for life and research has revealed that liquid water is pretty common in our solar system. Scientists have shared evidence of existence of water on Mars. Europe (one of the moons of Jupiter) also seems to have an ocean in liquid form. Evidence of water has also been found on Venus, Titan and Enceladus (Saturn's moons) and Jovian moons Ganymede and Callisto. 3) Life in earth evolved real quickly: Earth's age has often been estimated at about 4.5 billion years. With regards to the earliest evidence for life, it comes from 3.4 billion year old mats of bacteria found in Australia (known as stromatolites). Scientists have time and again insisted that even bacteria are biologically complex and there are good chances that the ones in Australia arose from a life form that landed on Earth even earlier.

4) Life seems to thrive in extreme conditions: Almost everywhere that scientist go on Earth, no matter how deep, dark or extreme the conditions, they end up finding life. Life can exist in the toughest of conditions and there are good chances that the universe is filled with living places that are tough and extreme. Mars is said to have a very harsh environment, but there are some microbes on Earth that can easily survive in places with harsh conditions. 5) Incoming signals: Scientists looking for answers to questions like do aliens exist and are aliens real frequently harness some of the largest radio telescopes in the world to find some signal that aliens might be trying to communicate with us. Some of the evidence has raised alarm, but it has often been dismissed as 'human interference'. The most convincing signal, however, was recorded on August 15, 1977 during a search that was carried at the Big Ear Observatory at the Ohio State University. The signal has never been explained but when recorded, it amazed scientists enough to write 'Wow!' on the printout of the same. A look at these very convincing proofs would lead us to strongly believe that aliens, in fact, do exist and they are very real. There are always going to be skeptics but more and more scientific evidence is coming in everyday and one day, very soon it seems, when someone asks questions like do aliens exist or are aliens are, there will be a resounding 'yes!'.