NASA's Cryptic 'Major Discovery' Memo On Alien Planets Has People Freaking Out

by John Haltiwanger

NASA is set to hold a press conference on Wednesday, February 22 about a "major discovery beyond our solar system."

Naturally, this vague but exciting announcement has a lot of people thinking NASA has finally discovered aliens. "Star Wars" nerds are salivating right now.

The press conference will reportedly present new findings on exoplanets, planets that orbit stars beyond our sun.

Exoplanets have characteristics similar to Earth, and they are the best hope for finding life outside our planet.

NASA has already discovered thousands of exoplanets, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are habitable.

As NASA put it,

Discovering thousands of planets beyond our solar system counts as a “eureka” moment in human exploration. But the biggest payoff is yet to come: capturing evidence of a distant world hospitable to life. In just over 20 years of exploration, ground and space-based observations have turned up more than 3,200 confirmed exoplanets in the few slices of our galaxy we've been able to search. Add unconfirmed planetary candidates and the number jumps to more than 5,600. Many of the planets found so far are gas or ice giants, with little chance of a solid surface harboring a warm little pond. But we've also found some rocky worlds in Earth's size range. Even with the expected advances in observing technology in years to come, we're unlikely to know the precise nature of any life we might detect, be they crusts of algae or loping, six-legged giraffes. Still, among those rocky, Earth-like worlds, we could catch tantalizing glimpses of the right conditions for life.

Even if NASA hasn't discovered aliens, or life beyond Earth, perhaps it has discovered an exoplanet or exoplanets hospitable to life.

This press conference, which is at 1 pm EST and will be live streamed, comes in the wake of the discovery of organic molecules, the building blocks of life, on the dwarf planet Ceres.

Long story short: It's a very exciting time for NASA and space exploration.

Citations: NASA to Host News Conference on Discovery Beyond Our Solar System (NASA)