As this column is being written, the James Webb Space Telescope is making its way to a position in space where it will be able to begin its observations of the early universe and view alien planetary systems.

For the most part, things appear to be going to plan.

But when the telescope begins making these observations later this year, I wager there will be quite a few surprises in store for all of us.

The James Webb is a hundred times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope.

That’s right. 100 times.

A device with such capabilities certainly has the power to change our view on the universe. That means we need to be prepared to think differently when it comes to our place in the cosmos.

While James Webb may not directly tell us whether alien life exists on other planets, it will give us further clues in that direction. The telescope will give a general sense of how many Earth-sized planets are truly Earth-like, which is important because it tells us how wide or how narrow to make our search for extraterrestrial life.

Whether it’s the James Webb, a different telescope, or through another means altogether, I believe the day we’re told humanity is no longer alone is coming sooner rather than later.

This belief isn’t based on anything except on the speed of new scientific technology available, as well as the notion that our society can handle such an announcement. If there is a divide, it won’t be along political lines, but more likely between the “trust what you’re told” crowd vs. the “won’t believe it till we actually see it” crowd — and, I reckon, there will be a divide among religious groups as well.

Divisions are as inevitable as the sun rising and setting every day. However, the study of astronomy and the discussion of alien life is open to everyone.

I am curious to see, though, what the reaction will be and what lines will be drawn as we make discoveries that alter our way of thinking. I think for me — if it comes to pass — it will actually be a relief. I can’t really explain why. Maybe it will just be a validation of what I already sense or what I believe.

What will you be doing when you’re told humanity isn’t alone? It’ll be a moment you’ll remember forever.

Joe Malan is presentation editor and astronomy writer at the Enid News & Eagle. Email him at jmalan@enidnews.com.

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Joe Malan is astronomy writer and presentation editor for the Enid News & Eagle. Email him at jmalan@enidnews.com.

Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for Joe? Send an email to jmalan@enidnews.com.

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Entertainment Editor | Copy Editor | Astronomy Writer

Hi, I'm Joe. I've been with the Enid News & Eagle since June 2009. I design many of the pages you see each week in your newspaper. I love writing and talking about space, and I love listening to and writing about music as well.

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