Flying Whales, Other Aliens Theorized by Scientists

Stefan Lovgren
National Geographic Channel
for National Geographic News
Updated June 3, 2005

One side of the planet is draped in eternal freezing darkness, the other side is bathed in permanent starlight.

Fields of "stinger fans"—animals that look like tall plants—cover the floodplains. Other strange species abound, from giraffe-like predators called gulphogs to tiny flesh-dissolving tadpoles known as hysteria.

Welcome to the planet Aurelia.

No, we haven't discovered life on another world—yet. But this could be what life on the fringes of our galaxy looks like, according to a group of scientists that contributed to the National Geographic Channel's special Extraterrestrial, which aired Monday, May 30.

Alien life is not just possible but probable, according to many scientists. And thanks to new technology, we may not be too far from finding it.

The question is: What can we expect to find?

Perhaps something like Aurelia. Or maybe the Blue Moon, another world imagined by the Extraterrestrial scientists. The fictional moon has a 240-hour day and orbits a huge planet in a solar system with two suns. With an atmosphere three times denser than Earth's, the Blue Moon has giant whales gliding through its sky.

For now, scientists can only speculate what alien life may look like. But many seem to agree: It is virtually a statistical certainty that we are not alone in our galaxy.

"The more we learn, the more life-friendly the universe seems," said Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California. Shostak is one of the scientists featured in the special.

Red Dwarfs

The search for alien life, of course, is hardly new. But in recent years scientists have found a lot more places in the galaxy where they think life could gain a foothold.

So far, the known planets number only in the hundreds. But astronomers calculate that there are at least tens of billions of undiscovered planets in our galaxy.

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