Sophia’s experience, and his father’s before her, is not unusual. Of over 400 scientific papers published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics from 2015 to 2017, a whopping 20 percent identify the search for life elsewhere in the universe as their primary focus.
It’s not just a question for teenage girls; the men responsible for these papers all refer to it as their leading concern in every single one of their words of theirs. In addition to Sophia, they could just as easily be naming other amateur astronomers and anyone looking to get started in the field, especially with there being 4 billion extrasolar planets (approximately one every 68 seconds) and a larger percentage of these planets likely to have in-depth watery oceans, as compared to Earth (25 percent compared to 5 percent).
Admittedly, if the public mindset says something is important, it just might be. The way the world responded to Iceland’s Lidar experiment, which lit up the skies in 2009 and proved that it was not just possible to detect Earth-like exoplanets, made the exploration of life in outer space a significant topic of conversation. And with advancements in technology and discoveries just a few years away from the beginning of direct exoplanet detection, plenty of people have their minds set on what they hope to accomplish.
For adult men, the outlook is just as bright. A 2015 study found that men were 31 percent more likely to express a strong interest in space exploration.
Even if none of the people mentioned here find extraterrestrial life, the opportunity to use science and the sky to use for scientific research and exploration is a distinct advantage over other fields. Hopefully, the next generation of astronomers will take up the quest for life and let science do the rest.