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During your lifetime, astronomers will likely uncover solid evidence for the existence or the extreme rarity of life in the universe. In my new book Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal With It?, I discuss the discoveries of planets around other stars, the possible discovery of life on those planets in the very near future, and the potential impact of those discoveries on our many different religions. Climb on board this 21st century astronomy discovery train, folks, because the ride will be profound and mind-blowing.

Why now? In the 1990s, astronomers began to perfect the tools and techniques for finding planets around other stars. Then they began to find planets. Now, they're pretty darn good at doing exactly that. NASA's Kepler mission identified thousands of extrasolar planets. ESA's GAIA mission, launched in 2013, is expected to find tens of thousands more. The number of projects and space missions dedicated to and planned for finding planets is in the hundreds. By the end of this century, astronomers will have put together catalogs that include the celestial locations of millions of planets.

Finding extrasolar planets is the appetizer. Studying them is the main course. And what are we serving for dinner? Perhaps the most important discovery in the history of human exploration: the discovery of extraterrestrial life.

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