What are the Best Ways to Search for Technosignatures?

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) has long roots in human history.  With the advent of modern technologies, scientists were finally able to start scanning the skies for any sign of life.  When the search first started back in the 1960s, it focused almost exclusively on trying to detect radio signals.  Over the decades, no irrefutable evidence of any artificial radio signals was ever found. Financial support started to drift away from the discipline, and where the money goes so do many scientists.

But more recently, the spike in interest in exoplanet research has breathed new life into the search for intelligent life, now commonly referred to as the search for “technosignatures”. In 2018, NASA sponsored a conference where scientists who were involved with the field came to discuss its current state.  That meeting was followed up by a meeting last year sponsored by the Blue Marble Institute, which NASA also helped to sponsor.  Now a working paper has come out from the group of SETI scientists that attended the conference. Numerous potential mission ideas to find technosignatures are described in the paper. It’s clear the search for extraterrestrial intelligence isn’t limited just to radio astronomy anymore.

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Uranus X-Rays are Probably Reflected Sunlight, but There Could be Another Source as Well

X-rays offer a unique insight into the astronomical world.  Invisible to the naked eye, most commonly they are thought of as the semi-dangerous source of medical scans.  However, X-ray observatories, like the Chandra X-ray Observatory are capable of seeing astronomical features that no other telescope can.  Recently scientists found some of those X-rays coming from a relatively unexpected source – Uranus.

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Roman Telescope Could Turn up Over 100,000 Planets Through Microlensing

Recently we reported on a haul of 2,200 new exoplanets from the 2 year primary mission of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). But that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of exoplanet hunting.  If calculations from NASA are correct the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope could detect up to 100,000 new exoplanets when it launches in 2025.

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TESS has Found 2,200 Potential Exoplanets so far

Exoplanetology has been on a tear recently.  This is largely due to an abundance of data collected by a new generation of satellites, one of which is the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).  Now the project has reached a new milestone with another release of data – 2,200 planet candidates collected, far surpassing the 1,600 expected candidates in the mission’s first two years.  Now comes a potentially even more daunting task – following up with each of them.

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Clear Signs of Recent Erosion on Mars

Erosion can take many forms.  Most commonly known is water wearing away the sides of creeks or lakes.  But wind can erode just as effectively, especially if it carries dust particles that can eat away at otherwise solid objects.  While this wind-driven process is most commonly observed on Earth, it plays a role in the history of most other rocky bodies that have an atmosphere.  Recently, a team lead scientists from the Planetary Science Institute found evidence for some erosion from between 50,000 and a few million years ago in Mars’s polar ice cap.  That is a blink of the eye by geological standards.

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The Debris Cloud From a Supernova Shows an Imprint of the Actual Explosion

Computer models are continuing to play an increasing role in scientific discovery.  Everything from the first moments after the Big Bang to potential for life to form on other planets has been the target of some sort of computer model.  Now scientists from the RIKEN Astrophysical Big Bang Laboratory are turning this almost ubiquitous tool to a very violent event – Type Ia supernovae.  Their work has now resulted in a more nuanced understanding of the effects of these important events.

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The Closest Star Cluster to Earth is Being Dismantled in Front of our Eyes

Star clusters are interesting inhabitants of the sky.  They vary in sizes, distances, and number of stars, but almost all are spectacular to look at.  And most of them are in the process of being torn apart.  That is certainly the case for the Hyades star cluster – the closest one to Earth at only 153 light years away.  The problem is, there is something causing a lot more destruction than would be expected given the mass and energy in the surrounding space.  Now, a team of scientists from ESA have a theory as to what the cause of the destruction might be – a mysterious dark matter sub-halo.

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Simulating the Universe a Trillionth of a Second After the Big Bang

The Big Bang remains the best way to explain what happened at the beginning of the Universe.   However, the incredible energies flowing during the early part of the bang are almost incomprehensive to our everyday experience.  Luckily, computers aren’t so attached to normal human ways of thinking and have long been used to model the early universe right after the Bang.  Now, a team from the University of Göttingen have created the most comprehensive model of what exactly happened in that very early stage of the universe – one trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.

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One Idea for a Lunar Lava Tube Explorer

Lava tubes on the moon are some of the most interesting, and difficult, places to explore in the solar system.  But if humanity plans to eventually have a permanent presence on the moon, the more knowledge we have about the cave systems created by those lava tubes the better. 

That’s why ESA’s current focus on lunar cave exploration is so important, and another good reason to take note when it releases more information about some of the technologies leading that push.  Recently, it released an update on a project known as DAEDALUS, led by Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg (JMU), with interesting new insights into the sphere shaped autonomous robot.

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