Even the US Congress is also interested in the search for giant superstructures created by alien intelligence.
Over the past decade, we have created amazing instruments that make it possible to observe the deep stars and discover the many planets that revolve around them. These discoveries add fuel to the fire of the search for life forms other than Earth. Including the SETI project focusing on the search for intelligence in outer space. If life could arise on other planets, the question is, why don’t we look for signs other than chemical ones like the presence of oxygen?
We can find signs of technology. Things like radio waves, even megastructures – objects of enormous size. A good example is the hypothesis of the Dyson Sphere – a giant structure about the size of a star that revolves around the star and uses the energy emitted by the star to operate. As reported earlier this week, for the first time in its history, NASA has quietly begun a search for superstructures.
Probes looking for biomarkers have been heavily funded in the past decades. In contrast, the search for signs of technology experienced many ups and downs. In 1993, NASA abandoned an exploration project to search for microwave signals of artificial origin in space. This event put the search for signs of the technology on hold for several decades.
Since 2019, NASA has awarded $4,000 to fund the search for signs of technology. In November 2020, NASA provided a $1,000 grant to Ann Marie Cody of NASA’s Ames Research Center and Steve Croft, former astronomer and Breakthrough Listen project leader at the SETI Berkely Research Center. These two scientists are tasked with observing the entire sky to identify if there are any unusual objects in the universe.
Cody studies the natural causes of stars flickering against the dark background of the Universe. They may be due to objects orbiting the stars or black spots on the surface of the celestial body. This is one of many ways to probe to see if there are objects around the stars, and maybe there are objects orbiting the stars that are a super ant built by aliens.
There are several reasons why NASA is beginning to redirect research funding. In 2015, private investor Yuri Milner began funding Breakthrough Listen $100 million to carry out 10-year research. The money allowed for many developments, some of which were even published in many of the top astronomical journals.
Even the US Congress was interested, so NASA organized the Technology Signs workshop in September 2018.
Mr. Croft thinks astronomy has evolved enough to spur the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Thanks to telescopes like Kepler and TESS, astronomers believe that 1 out of every 5 planets has potential conditions for life. NASA also spent billions of dollars on astrobiological research last year, including the Mars Rover probe, which aims to probe for life on Mars.
The team’s strategy is to “find anomalies” – in other words, unusual changes in the light from stars. The difficulty lies in the large amount of data. The team is developing machine learning algorithms to automatically classify from data collected by the TESS space telescope. Thanks to that, scientists can quickly detect anomalies.
Of course, there are other technological signs to look out for as well. In 2019, NASA funded Adam Frank from the University of Rochester and colleagues to find out if there are planets that show signs of pollution, or have solar cells covering their surfaces. This is the first project to look for signs of technology beyond radio waves, funded by NASA. “What you need is a list of potential signs, so that when you look at the data you can ask: is there something out of the ordinary, a technological sign?” says Frank.
Croft’s team let the algorithm learn this list of signs and then read the data. “If we can’t detect them, maybe the algorithm isn’t sensitive enough to the data, or we need to tweak the algorithm parameters,” says Croft. This algorithm succeeded in detecting the radio signal of the Voyager 1 spacecraft in a mixed data of multiple background radio waves.
Based on past other studies, if any of the findings should not be immediately due to extraterrestrials. However, they bring new knowledge about strange phenomena in nature. “Whatever the discovery, it’s going to be interesting.”