Could Alien Solar Panels Be Technosignatures?

This image shows the Westlands Solar Park in the San Joaquin Valley. Could massive solar farms create a distinct technosignature? Image Credit: Westlands Solar Park

If alien technological civilizations exist, they almost certainly use solar energy. Along with wind, it’s the cleanest, most accessible form of energy, at least here on Earth. Driven by technological advances and mass production, solar energy on Earth is expanding rapidly.

It seems likely that ETIs (Extraterrestrial Intelligence) using widespread solar energy on their planet could make their presence known to us.

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Astronomers are on the Hunt for Dyson Spheres

Artist's impression of a Dyson Sphere. The construction of such a massive engineering structure would create a technosignature that could be detected by humanity. Credit: SentientDevelopments.com/Eburacum45
Artist's impression of a Dyson Sphere. The construction of such a massive engineering structure would create a technosignature that could be detected by humanity. Credit: SentientDevelopments.com/Eburacum45

There’s something poetic about humanity’s attempt to detect other civilizations somewhere in the Milky Way’s expanse. There’s also something futile about it. But we’re not going to stop. There’s little doubt about that.

One group of scientists thinks that we may already have detected technosignatures from a technological civilization’s Dyson Spheres, but the detection is hidden in our vast troves of astronomical data.

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An AI Simulated Interactions Between Different Kinds of Advanced Civilizations

Simulation of interactions with alien civilisations

The possibility for life beyond the Earth has captivated us for hundreds of years. It has been on the mind of science fiction writers too as our imaginations have explored the myriad possibilities of extraterrestrial life. But what would it really be like if/when we finally meet one; would it lead to war or peace? Researchers have used a complex language model to simulate the first conversations with civilisations from pacifists to militarists and the outcomes revealed interesting challenges.

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Some Intelligent Civilizations Will Be Trapped on their Worlds

With thousands of exoplanets discovered so far, astronomers are learning how different planets can be. What if intelligent alien civilizations arise on extremely different habitable worlds? Some civilizations could develop space exploration technologies, but others would be trapped underwater, under ice, or in enormous gravity wells. How could they escape? Image Credit: DALL-E

Evolution has produced a wondrously diverse variety of lifeforms here on Earth. It just so happens that talking primates with opposable thumbs rose to the top and are building a spacefaring civilization. And we’re land-dwellers. But what about other planets? If the dominant species on an ocean world builds a technological civilization of some sort, would they be able to escape their ocean home and explore space?

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Can Alien Civilizations Detect Humanity?

Is anyone out there? A new study examines how likely it is that an advanced ETI can "see" us. Image Credit: Jon Hrubesch

One of the fascinating things about being a human in this age is that we can do more than wonder about other life and other civilizations. We can actually look for them, although there are obvious limitations to our search. But what’s equally fascinating is that we can wonder if others can see us.

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Since Aliens Obey the Laws of Physics, Can We Guess What They Look Like?

Credit: Pixabay

Since time immemorial, humans have gazed up at the stars and wondered if we’re alone in the universe. We have asked if there are other intelligent beings out there in the vastness of the cosmos, also known as extraterrestrial intelligence (ET). Yet, despite our best efforts, we have yet to confirm the existence of ET outside of the Earth. While the search continues, it’s fair to speculate if they might look “human” or humanoid in appearance, or if they could look like something else entirely. Here, we present a general examination and discussion with astrobiologists pertaining to what ET might look like and what environmental parameters (e.g., gravity, atmospheric makeup, stellar activity) might cause them to evolve differently than humans.

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Could We Find Aliens Terraforming Other Worlds?

Artist's conception of a terraformed Mars. Credit: Ittiz/Wikimedia Commons

The first early humans to use fire had no inkling of what it would lead to.

Fire was one of our first technologies, and humans have been making changes to their environments since the advent of controlled fire hundreds of thousands of years ago. Fast forward to current times, and our modern technological and global civilization is changing the Earth’s entire biosphere. From carbon emissions that acidify the oceans and weaken the shells of marine life to microplastics that find their way into organisms’ bloodstreams, our technology is intersecting, or combining, with the biosphere.

This has spawned a useful word: biotechnosphere.

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Penn State SETI Symposium Opens with Commemoration of Dr. Frank Drake

Dr. Frank Drake (1930 -2022). Credit: Danielle Futselaar

Is humanity alone in the Universe? Is anyone out there? Where is everybody? And what happens if and when we make contact with them? These and other questions were the subjects of the 2023 Penn State SETI Symposium hosted by the Penn State Extraterrestrial Intelligence Center (PSETI) from June 19th-22nd, 2023. The event featured prominent speakers from various research fields and disciplines discussing the challenges, history, and future of SETI. In the great tradition established by Dr. Frank Drake, they also addressed key issues related to the search for intelligent life and what we might find someday.

The summit opened with a series of overviews, a review of the past year (since the last summit), and a presentation by Dr. Rebecca Charbonneau, a science historian and Jansky Fellow at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). Her presentation, titled “Frank Drake and his Place in History,” provided a retrospective on the life and accomplishments of famed radio astronomer and SETI pioneer Dr. Frank Drake (for whom the Drake Equation is named), how he altered the character of the field, and how history will remember him.

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Astronomers are Searching for a Galaxy-Wide Transmitter Beacon at the Center of the Milky Way

Artist's impression of a Dyson Sphere, an proposed alien megastructure that is the target of SETI surveys. Finding one of these qualifies in a "first contact" scenario. Credit: Breakthrough Listen / Danielle Futselaar
Artist's impression of a Dyson Sphere, an proposed alien megastructure that is the target of SETI surveys. Finding one of these qualifies in a "first contact" scenario. Credit: Breakthrough Listen / Danielle Futselaar

It has been over sixty years since the first Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) survey occurred. This was Project Ozma, a survey led by Dr. Frank Drake (who devised the Drake Equation) that used the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, West Virginia, to listen for radio transmissions from Epsilon Eridani and Tau Ceti. While the search revealed nothing of interest, it paved the way for decades of research, theory, and attempts to find evidence of technological activity (aka. “technosignatures”).

The search continues today, with researchers using next-generation instruments and analytical methods to find the “needle in the cosmic haystack.” This is the purpose behind Breakthrough Listen Investigation for Periodic Spectral Signals (BLIPSS), a collaborative SETI project led by Cornell graduate student Akshay Suresh to look for technosignatures at the center of the Milky Way. In a recent paper, Suresh and his team shared their initial findings, which were made possible thanks to data obtained by the Greenbank Observatory and a proprietary algorithm they developed.

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