Formation-Flying Spacecraft Could Probe the Solar System for New Physics

It’s an exciting time for the fields of astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology. Thanks to cutting-edge observatories, instruments, and new techniques, scientists are getting closer to experimentally verifying theories that remain largely untested. These theories address some of the most pressing questions scientists have about the Universe and the physical laws governing it – like the …

Does the Rise of AI Explain the Great Silence in the Universe?

Artificial Intelligence is making its presence felt in thousands of different ways. It helps scientists make sense of vast troves of data; it helps detect financial fraud; it drives our cars; it feeds us music suggestions; its chatbots drive us crazy. And it’s only getting started. Are we capable of understanding how quickly AI will …

We Could Snoop on Extraterrestrial Communications Networks

SETI researchers have directed their search toward interesting star systems where extraterrestrial civilizations could send signals toward Earth. According to a new paper, sufficiently advanced civilizations will communicate across the galaxy, sending signals between stars, rogue planets, and interstellar objects. They’ll probably be using pulsars as a navigation system to coordinate their activities at a vast scale. To confirm their existence, we just have to listen in.

Humanity Will Out-Communicate all Life on Earth Within 90 Years

All organisms communicate information with their cells using signaling molecules. Add up all these communications, and it’s the equivalent of 10^24 bits per second, which is an incomprehensibly large amount. Humanity’s digital communication only amounts to 10^15 bits per second, nine orders of magnitude less. However, humanity’s information transmission is growing exponentially, and according to a new study, it should catch up within 90 years. These estimates could help astronomers search for technological civilizations more advanced than us.

If Earth Was an Exoplanet, JWST Would Know There's an Intelligent Civilization Here

JWST is the most powerful instrument astronomers have to study the atmospheres of exoplanets, looking for trace gases that might indicate life on another world. What if Earth was an exoplanet orbiting a nearby star? What could JWST learn about our planet? In a new study, astronomers took observations of Earth from various spacecraft and then simulated what JWST would see if it got our home planet in the crosshairs. The telescope could detect various chemicals, from water vapor to methane, but it could also sense the presence of chlorofluorocarbons resulting from our industrial infrastructure.