NASA set to launch back in to search for 'techno signatures' - signs of life beyond Earth

Thursday, October 4, 2018

NASA could soon be resuming the search for life beyond our planet, with the US Government asking the agency to look into how it would expand the search for "techno signatures".

Techno signatures are signs or signals that could have been made by intelligent life, that could not possibly have occurred naturally, like AM or FM radio waves here on Earth.

Scientists assume {they are|they're} the key to determining whether or not we are alone in the universe.

"I think that when we finally discover something out there, it isn't going to be contacted," Jason Wright, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University, told the world today.

Associate Professor Wright and his peers have recently gathered in the United States for a NASA workshop to discuss concepts on how the search for life could be reinvigorated.

"Since the early 90s, NASA has spent nearly no money looking for signs of extra-terrestrial technology or extra-terrestrial intelligence," he said.

"But it looks like in this year's budget, there might be some cash for NASA to work on that."

Alice Gorman, a space archaeologist based at Flinders University and a director on the board of the space industry Association of Australia, said techno signatures were built around the concept a society or culture on another planet would have been carrying out industrial activities.

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"These industrial activities will produce a range of effects that it might be possible to detect by a space-based telescope or an Earth-based telescope," she said.

While the search has been going on for decades, Dr Gorman said that was really only a short amount of time for a probe of this scale.

"So it's the proverbial needle in the haystack, [but] NASA is getting back into the game."

Alien life likely, but will humans detect it?

Danny price is a radio astronomer working for the Breakthrough Listen project at the Parkes Telescope in Australia.

The Breakthrough Listen program, funded by a Russian billionaire, will have the capacity to search a far greater number of galaxies, stars and solar systems than anyone had previously been able to.

"Well, we've not found aliens yet and {that's|and that is} the end goal — that's really what we're looking for," Dr Price said.

"But in terms of scientific and technological development, there is been a lot of very interesting things that are found.

"Some of these false positives have turned out to be exciting new astrophysical phenomena."

Dr price said it was initially thought the first pulsars (neutron stars) that were discovered might be signals from aliens and were dubbed "LGM", for "little green men".

He said he was "optimistic" about the possibility of finding life beyond our planet.

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