So what if we find alien life? Don’t panic!

TESS spacecraft
An artist’s conception shows the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, monitoring a distant star and its planets. (NASA Illustration)

AUSTIN, Texas — If extraterrestrial life exists, there’s a chance we’ll detect it sometime in the next 20 years. And then what? A recently published study suggests that most folks will take the news calmly, if they care at all.

“How would we react if we find that we’re not alone in the universe? This question has been the cause of great speculation over the years — but, until now, virtually no systematic empirical research,” Michael Varnum, a psychologist at Arizona State University, said today in Austin at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In a study published by Frontiers of Psychology, Varnum and his colleagues suggest that revelations about life beyond our planet will be viewed more positively than negatively.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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