UCF astrobiology club connects students to space
UFOs, spaceships and little green aliens might seem like something out of a Hollywood blockbuster, but some students at UCF have decided to turn their curiosity about these otherworldly beings into a new club on campus.
To debunk the mysteries of life in outer space, the Astrobiology and Extraterrestrial Life Society is in the process of becoming a registered student organization through the Office of Student Involvement, and is still in its infancy as a campus organization.
Those who have joined the club early have already seen its potential to bring greater awareness of astrobiology to students at UCF.
“Only now is academia taking astrobiology seriously since it used to be all science-fiction back then, and now our group is offering students an opportunity to take a serious approach to it,” said Sergio Solano, the club’s founder.
Solano, a sophomore biotechnology and mathematics major, said the main goal of AELS is to establish an astrobiology community on campus. Once approved, he said the club would be one of only a dozen or so of these types of student groups in the world.
Astrobiology is a multidisciplinary field that “encompasses the search for habitable environments in our solar system and habitable planets outside our solar system,” according to NASA’s website. The definition also includes the search for life on Mars and other planets, research into the origins of life on Earth and studies on how life on Earth will adapt to future challenges.
For Solano, the club is all about discovering the truth to one of the greatest mysteries that the world has ever been faced with.
“You look at history and you see encounters between different civilizations. And then you look at astrobiology, and wonder how it would be like to know that we are not alone,” he said. “We would finally have closure to a question that has been around since the beginning of civilization: Is there anybody else out there?”
For other members, the club offers a chance to find a real-world application for their hobbies, and offers a way for them to connect to people with similar interests.
“I’ve always had a love of science fiction, and the field of astrobiology kind of walks that line between science fiction and science fact,” said Cassidy Beaulieu, a sophomore studio art major. “I would really love to meet people who are interested in astronomy and the same kind of nerdy stuff that I am.”
In the future, AELS hopes to hold events such as a “SETI@home” experiment, which is a national project that allows anyone with access to a computer to “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life” by running a free program that downloads and analyzes radio-telescope data. This type of radio data would not occur naturally, so its detection would provide evidence of extraterrestrial technology, according to the project’s website.
The club is currently trying to gather members and decide on meeting dates, but for students interested in joining, membership is free until Thanksgiving.
“You don’t have to be exclusively in biology or astronomy to be involved, it’s really for anyone,” Solano said. “It’s an academic field that invites students in different fields to come together.”
Deanna Ferrante is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.