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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The Habitable Worlds Observatory Could See Lunar and Solar ‘Exo-Eclipses’

Exo-moon
An artist's conception of an exoplanet with a large orbiting exomoon. Credit: University of Columbia/Helena Valenzuela Widerström

A future space observatory could use exo-eclipses to tease out exomoon populations.

If you’re like us, you’re still coming down from the celestial euphoria that was last month’s total solar eclipse. The spectacle of the Moon blocking out the Sun has also provided astronomers with unique scientific opportunities in the past, from the discovery of helium to proof for general relativity. Now, eclipses in remote exoplanetary systems could aid in the hunt for elusive exomoons.

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Astronomers Identify 164 Promising Targets for the Habitable Worlds Observatory

Planning large astronomical missions is a long process. In some cases, such as the now functional James Webb Space Telescope, it can literally take decades. Part of that learning process is understanding what the mission will be designed to look for. Coming up with a list of what it should look for is a process, and on larger missions, teams of scientists work together to determine what they think will be best for the mission. In that vein, a team of researchers from UC Berkeley and UC Riverside have released a paper describing a database of exoplanets that could be worth the time of NASA’s new planned habitable planet survey, the Habitable Worlds Observatory HWO.

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When did the First Continents Appear in the Universe?

Continents might be necessary for life, especially complex life. This image shows super-continent Pangaea during the Permian period (300 - 250 million years ago). Credit: NAU Geology/Ron Blakey

On Earth, continents are likely necessary to support life. Continents ‘float’ on top of the Earth’s viscous mantle, and heat from the planet’s core keeps the mantle from solidifying and locking the continents into place.

The core is hot because of the presence of radioactive elements that came from neutron star collisions. It should be possible to calculate when the first continents formed in the Universe.

So that’s what one researcher did.

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How Can We Bring Down the Costs of Large Space Telescopes?

Our space telescopes are becoming more and more powerful. But they're also enormously expensive. Can we bring the cost down? Image Credit: STScI/NASA/ESA/CSA

We’re all basking in the success of the James Webb Space Telescope. It’s fulfilling its promise as our most powerful telescope, making all kinds of discoveries that we’ve been anticipating and hoping for. But the JWST’s story is one of broken budgets, repeated requests for more time and money, and near-cancellations.

Can we make space telescopes less expensive?

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JWST Pioneer Passes Along Advice for Future Space Telescope Builders

John Mather
Nobel-winning physicist John Mather is the senior project scientist for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. (NASA Photo / Chris Gunn)

After a quarter-century of development, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is a smashing success. But senior project scientist John Mather, a Nobel-winning physicist who’s played a key role in the $10 billion project since the beginning, still sees some room for improvement.

Mather looked back at what went right during JWST’s creation, as well as what could be done better the next time around, during a lecture delivered today at the American Astronomical Society’s winter meeting in Seattle.

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