Searching for signs
While UFO sightings have been fairly common for decades (UFO doesn’t equal alien, simply, it’s an unidentified flying object), scientists and researchers are now going beyond weird orbs and flashes of light and are keying in on technosignatures. These are signs of technological activity – either past or present – that indicate the existence of an advanced civilization. There are four technosignatures in particular astronomers are looking for, including:
In 1960, Freeman Dyson came up with the hypothetical idea of a megastructure, which he imagined as kind of a hollow shell that a civilization would use to surround its sun and harness its energy. Searches for these “Dyson spheres” have taken place over the last 40 years, and they’ve gotten a lot more precise, says astronomer Jason Wright of the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Pennsylvania State University.
“Today, the Gaia mission by the European Space Agency is measuring precise distances to hundreds of millions of stars, which will greatly improve the efficiency of searches for Dyson spheres in the Milky Way,” Wright said. “No longer will our searches be confused by the millions of quasars and other objects that confuse searches using the WISE survey. We are also honing our detailed models for what the observational characteristics of Dyson spheres would be, which helps us know exactly what to look for.”
Just as humans pollute the environment, the same may be true of aliens, researchers think. This is why they’re examining the substances that could be present in the atmosphere of other planets. In particular, they are looking for the industrial chemicals, tetrafluoromethane and trichlorofluoromethane, which are refrigerants that would be fairly easy to detect. According to astrophysicist, Professor Avi Loeb, both should be detectable within a couple of days after observing them, using the new James Webb Space Telescope.
Researchers speculate that when aliens travel in their spaceships – like our own ships – they would require a substantial amount of fuel. To solve this problem (or perhaps because the aliens are just conscientious about protecting their planets), Robert Forward of Hughes Research Laboratories proposed the idea in 1984 that they would use a laser-pushed light sail. This would involve attaching a thin sail made of reflective material to a ship, which would then be pushed by a solar-powered laser. If they do use this type of device, we would (theoretically) be able to see flashes of light when the lasers were turned on and off.
While a common plot point in a lot of sci-fi material, wormholes – which were actually first proposed by Albert Einstein – have never been detected, and most scientists believe that they don’t exist. This hasn’t, however, stopped people from looking for them. In terms of technosignatures, some researchers believe that alien civilizations may be advanced enough to create wormholes that would enable them to take these shortcuts through space and time. And if this were to happen, due to gravitational microlensing – which happens when the gravity of a distant star gets magnified – in theory, a wormhole could be detected.
“If the wormholes have throat radii between 100 and 10 million kilometers, are bound to our galaxy, and are as common as ordinary stars, detection might be achieved by reanalyzing past data,” says Professor Fumio Abe of Nagoya University in Japan.
So, has anything been found yet?
The search for these technosignatures is relatively new, so as of yet, researchers haven’t been able to find any conclusive evidence. Recently, researchers in Australia spent hours listening for technosignatures from 144 planets and billions of stars outside of our solar system but didn’t hear anything unusual. Thanks to the continuing advancement of technology and what we know about space, however, it may not be long before some form of alien life is spotted.
Do you believe that alien life is out there? And if we actually find proof of it, what do you think we should do? Comment below and share this article with other extraterrestrial enthusiasts!