Alien conference held on Great Barrier Island

Alien (Getty)
Alien (Getty)

Is there life out there?

That's the name of a conference held today on Great Barrier Island and a question big enough to attract astronomers from all over the world.

The search for alien life can lead astronomers to some far-flung places, though usually through the lens of a telescope.

Brother Guy Consolmagno is the director of the Vatican Observatory. For him, alien life is a matter of faith.

"I have faith that there's life out there precisely because I don't have certainty," says Brother Consolmagno.

Faith Vilas is a scientist from the United States. She says our collective knowledge is snowballing and predicts humans will find a planet capable of harbouring life like ours within the next 20 years.

"Our technology's catching up with what's out there. We are able to pursue these questions. For the first time we are able to pursue them with some level of certainty," says Ms Vilas.

Remarkably, the conference has been organised by a local group called Awana Rural Women to stimulate residents in the remote community.

"We're really well looked after physically with our medical centre and the kinds of activities people do here, but it's mind food that we miss," says Gendie Somerville-Ryan, the group's president.

Although this is the biggest congregation of world-leading astronomers Great Barrier Island has seen so far, it potentially won't be the last, with the island announcing today that it wants to become a certified dark sky sanctuary - a similar status to what Tekapo currently has. 

Only two other such sanctuaries exist in the whole world, and the process to become certified - which could take up to a year - is underway.

Meanwhile, the astronomers will continue their quest to find out what is really out there.