Astronomer Kyle Jeter Weighs the Evidence at Parkland Library
Kyle Jeter, astronomy teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, pictured at his home

By Kevin Deutsch

Kyle Jeter was just five when he fell for the cosmos.

America had already taken multiple trips to the moon, landed Viking probes on Mars, and seemed on the verge of unlocking the universe’s greatest secrets. Yet after decades of scientific advancement, one question still sparks wonder in Jeter and countless other astronomers: Do intelligent civilizations exist on other planets?

“Are we alone? That’s one of those fundamental questions we don’t have an answer to that everyone loves to think about,” said Jeter, a decorated astronomy teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a former selectee for the Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program.

On June 29, at 6:30 p.m., Jeter will take an in-depth look at the possibility of finding advanced civilizations, speaking on the topic at Parkland Library, 6620 University Drive.

Using empirical data – along with plenty of speculation – Broward’s 2017 Teacher of the Year will analyze each term of the famous Drake Equation and help attendees take their best guess at the odds of finding intelligent life outside Earth.

“We’ll get into everything from physics to chemistry to biology,” said Jeter, who has taught high school astronomy since 1997. “All these different things you have to think about, like what is life, exactly, how did it evolve, and how should we feel about the odds of it happening elsewhere?”

But Jeter’s talk, we go even farther.

“When you start talking about, specifically in our own galaxy, at this moment in time – a civilization we could communicate with – that becomes a much more interesting and nuanced question,” he added.

The Parkland event comes as questions about potential alien life pervade American culture, spurred in part by the release of U.S. government videos and images appearing to show fast-moving, unidentified flying objects in the sky.

An unidentified object from the Department of Defense.

Jeter said he is “extremely skeptical” that such technology would be alien in nature, citing Occam’s razor – the idea that the simplest explanation is usually the best one – as well as a favorite quote from astronomer Carl Sagan: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

“It’s a hot topic right now. It’s out there in the culture,” said Jeter. “I’m kind of using that interest to draw people in.”

“Little kids love it,” he said of space and its enduring mysteries, “but adults love it, too. A lot of us never grow out of that interest…that’s what makes it fun.”

To register for the library event, fill out the form at the Parkland Library link.

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Kevin Deutsch
Kevin Deutsch
Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.