NASA is finally doing what the weirdos on Twitter want them to do – look for aliens. Well, sort of. They’re looking into the search for alien technology in and outside of our solar system for what are called technosignatures.
The Debrief previously covered tecnhosignatres and the NASA scientist’s search for alien objects. A search still deemed taboo in the science community.
In a previous interview with The Debrief, Jacob Haqq-Misra, an astrobiologist and senior research investigator at Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, explained technosignatures as “any evidence of technology that could be remotely detectable, specifically through the tools of astronomy.” Haqq-Misra listed radio signals, city lights, atmospheric changes like CO2, and free-floating spacecraft all as examples of technosignatures.
Due to the vastness of outer space, there are a lot of places to look for technosignatures – so the real question is: If aliens were going to have technology in our solar system, where would they hide it? Where should we look for distant city lights, NO2 emissions, or cartoonish UFOs?
Finding technosignatures is a definite possibility. Astronomers have found over 4,000 planets orbiting other stars. Unfortunately, these planets are too far away to just pop by on a spaceship; our best bet is to use powerful telescopes to see what’s inside their atmospheres. According to NASA, some “might have conditions suitable for life as we know it,” and it’s possible that life on some of these planets may have evolved to the point where it produces a technological civilization, and in turn, a detectable technosignature.
In no particular order (unless you like the order), this is a list of where scientists think I can find my hot alien boyfriend.
The Earth-Moon Orbits
The first place you might want to look, according to a NASA scientist, is the Earth-moon orbit of other planetary systems; “because if I am sending a probe that far, I might as well send it to the planet I know that has some sort of biological or technological life,” Dr. Ravi Kopparapu said in an email to The Debrief.
A good place to look for technosignatures, especially without the technology to send a probe precisely near a planet, is in the general direction of a planetary system. Planetary systems are groups of planets that orbit a star.
Our solar system is just one planetary system (a star with planets orbiting around it). Astronomers have discovered more than 3,200 other stars with planets orbiting them in our galaxy. And that’s just how many we’ve found so far. There are likely many more planetary systems waiting to be discovered, according to NASA. That’s a lot of opportunities to explore technosignatures.
Use The Sun As A Telescope
If Dr. Jason Wright, NASA Scientist and Professor at Penn State University, could look anywhere, he’d look very, very far away at the solar gravitational lens focal line opposite Proxima.
This means that because the Sun can act as a lens, and the gravitational lens of the Sun can act like a giant telescope, which Dr. Wright suggests we use to look for technosignatures.
Proxima Centauri is the closest star to our sun, with planet Centauri b orbiting its “habitable zone” – that is already a promising playground to search for alien life.
However, we’re suggesting looking beyond it and instead of using Proxima as a means to see more. The Proxima “region of the solar system is where one can use the sun as a giant lens to focus transmissions,” Dr. Wright told The Debrief.
“If there is a Galactic communications network, it would make sense for it to use stars as lenses and to connect stars via their nearest neighbors,” Dr. Wright said.
The Galactic communications network wouldn’t quite be a Snapchat with a Proxima region geofilter, and some scientists say it would take 300,000 years to create the network. It would be a highly feasible way to communicate with other forms of intelligent life, as reported in Forbes.
The problem, Dr. Wright says, “is it’s very far away! Over 10 times farther away than Pluto. So finding something small out there will be very challenging.” And FYI, when Pluto and our earth are at their closest, they’re still 2.66 billion miles, or 4.28 billion km apart.
Using Proxima and harnessing the power of the Sun, we may one day find traces of alien life. And there’s already a plan to take a look: The Breakthrough’s Starshot Initiative is essentially planning to do this for the planet around our nearest star, Proxima Centauri, Dr. Wright mentioned in his email.
Get stuck in the Lagrange points
Dr. Jacob Haqq Misra says to search the Lagrange points of Jupiter!
Lagrange points are stable places in the orbit of a planet where debris or spacecraft can remain stable for a long time. “If any extraterrestrial astronomers sent an exploratory spacecraft to our solar system, then the Lagrange points are all possible destinations to send such a spacecraft,” Haqq-Misra told The Debrief.
Lagrange points are so stable, spacecraft that need to remain in position use them to reduce fuel consumption. Things that go there tend to stay there due to the gravitational pull, according to NASA.
Lagrange points aren’t always used on purpose to save on gas; a guest floating through could get stuck there too.
“An extraterrestrial spacecraft in the solar system might also be defunct and broken, having completed its primary mission, and so the drifting debris might also end up in one of these stable Lagrange points,” Haqq Misra said.
Haqq Misra advises you’ll want to look specifically for shiny things (or any physical reflecting objects) and use a telescope that can observe at optical wavelengths and infrared wavelengths to see if there is any heat loss.
The edge of the solar system
Dr. Ravi Kopparapu suggests simply looking at the edges of our solar system to see if any technosignatures are passing by. Specifically, Dr. Kopparapu suggests looking beyond Pluto’s orbit. And that’s far because Pluto, the dwarf-planet, has a weird orbit on an axis that’s pretty big: it takes 248 earth years to complete one orbit of the sun.
For your information, if your GPS clunks out around Pluto, once you get past the planet, you’ll hit the Kuiper Belt, a recent discovery. The Kuiper Belt is a ring of icy objects left over from the formation of the Solar System. And if you want to add another stop to your road trip to the edges of our Solar System, up ahead is the heliosphere, the bubble of gas generated by the solar wind which surrounds our Solar System that is kept in place by the Sun’s magnetic field and separates us from the rest of the Milky Way.
The Oort Cloud
A final suggestion: zoom out farther and look at the Oort Cloud, named after the Dutch scientist who predicted its presence in the 1950s. It is a vast spherical shell made out of space junk surrounding our solar system. Specifically, the thick walls of the Oort Cloud are made up of “icy pieces of space debris the size of mountains and sometimes larger,” according to NASA, and they say it might contain billions or trillions of icy objects! Maybe one of those trillions is a technosignature or at least a loose alien sock.
As The Debrief previously reported, there are countless interstellar visitors to the Oort Cloud, so a technosignature in the form of some alien technologies space junk isn’t completely bonkers.
Sarah London studied business and communications at the University of Winnipeg. She’s a content coordinator, writer, and stand-up comedian who likes science even though she failed physics. Follow her on Twitter @sra_5000.