It will happen. Sooner, rather than later, we here on Earth will establish with certainty that life exists on other planets in the far reaches of the universe.

Perhaps it’s already happened. Perhaps the announcement by Nasa this week about the discoveries on the mundanely-named planet K2-18b is first proof that we’re not alone in the depths of space.

What Nasa uncovered about K2-18b is the pinnacle so far of the almost-miraculous work of the James Webb Telescope, which has already hot-housed our understanding of the universe since its launch less than two years ago.

K2-18b - also known as Epic 201912552-b (though surely just "Epic" is a more fitting name for this intriguing world) - may well be home to life. The planet has carbon-bearing molecules, including methane and carbon dioxide. K2-18b has, Nasa says, “the potential to possess a hydrogen-rich atmosphere and a water ocean-covered surface”. Like Earth, it’s in the "Goldilocks zone", the habitable zone, in terms of distance from its home star.

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But there’s more: astronomers think they’ve detected the molecule dimethyl sulfide (DMS) on K2-18b. This, Nasa says, is “only produced by life. The bulk of DMS in Earth’s atmosphere is emitted from phytoplankton in marine environments”.

So is there life in K2-18b’s oceans, 124 light-years from Earth? What a thought. If true, it puts us humans upon a stage where we are but the tiniest, most humble of players.

Now, there’s debate about whether K2-18b can host life. So we could be looking at a false start. However, the speed at which the search for life in the universe has increased in just two years, means a discovery which most felt wouldn’t occur in their lifetime, may well come within the decade.

We seem about to awaken to a new dawn - not just for human history, but for human consciousness.

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Consider what such a discovery would mean, what effect it might have on our species.

First, we’d know at last that we were no longer alone. Psychologically, this will change us. Since we first tamed nature at the end of the Neolithic period during the agricultural revolution, humanity has believed that we have "dominion" over all we see. Our Stone Age ancestors are thought to have had a much more humble relationship to the natural world, seeing our species as just one part of the great tapestry of life, no more important in the scheme of things than a bear or a tree.

This notion which we’ve carried with us for millennia - that we "rule" nature - has arguably served us badly. We’ve treated the planet like a toy, and now we appear to have broken it. The consequences may be that the toy kills us in return.

Would the discovery of life out there tame us, humble us a little, prove that we’re not unique or special, that we’re not the masters of all we survey, but just a resident of the galactic suburbs on a rocky, watery planet which needs taken care of and loved?

What would the discovery of life mean for the notion of religion, all across the world faiths? If God does exist, then God would have to be reimagined. Any creator, if life is out there, would have seen Earth as far from extraordinary, for they would have sprinkled life throughout the stars. And if there was intelligent life? Well, then the notion of humanity made "in God’s image" is mere absurdity.

And might not the discovery of life elsewhere in the blackness of space teach us that down here on Earth we really are all the same? What would the colour of your skin matter if on other planets there was life, or even other civilisations?

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Would we come closer together in the wake of the discovery of alien life? Would it forge a sense of unity? Intellectually, would we at last approach what can surely be the one truth of life here on Earth: that we are all the same, all brothers and sisters regardless of where we were born or what language we speak?

We may also find a more functioning relationship with technology, an equilibrium between hubris and necessity. Why are we racing in pursuit of AI when we cannot feed, clothe or house every person on the planet? Why have we created machines which tear us apart - algorithmic but deadly toys stored on phones in our pockets - rather than technologies which work to unite as and make us happy?

Perhaps, the discovery of life elsewhere - if it did cause some awakening in humanity, some paradigm-shift in our consciousness as a species - would see us realign our technological pursuits to inventions which help us explore the universe and preserve the planet.

Would we not see a great flourishing of art, literature and creativity in the wake of such discoveries as humans across Earth sought to make sense of our place in the universe?

Yet the greatest change could be the simplest. Would we not start to look outward beyond ourselves, rather than inward as we do now? The beautiful irony could be that as the discovery of alien life makes us feel "smaller", less significant, more humble, we in turn grow emotionally, coming to a more refined notion of the universe, the world and our place in this vast, mysterious web of life.

Why not dream that humanity could, in effect, evolve - at least emotionally and psychologically for the better in the wake of the discovery of alien life?

Perhaps it’s more frightening to think of a universe without any life but us. Are we it? Are we, as the existentialists feared, all lone creatures standing on a rock spinning in dark space? Are we cursed as a species to flourish briefly then flicker out, leaving the universe forevermore just a cold, lifeless empty canvas? Will we never have the chance to better ourselves through the simple realisation that we’re not alone, that we have neighbours?

As the poet Robert Frost wrote: “They cannot scare me with their empty spaces

Between stars, on stars where no human race is.

I have it in me so much nearer home

To scare myself with my own desert places.”