A Penn State astronomer has posited that the search for extraterrestrial intelligence might be better served by taking a harder look at our neighboring worlds within the Solar System and placing more emphasis on the possible evidence of extinct alien civilizations that they might have left behind artifacts of their existence. The suggestion contends that by attempting to find microbial life and proof of life via emissions (biosignatures) from alien life on other worlds, technological artifacts might actually be less difficult to discover.
Jason Wright, an astronomy professor at Penn State, has questioned, according to Phys.org, if humanity has actually made a serious search effort for indicators of intelligent life or artifacts of alien origin — called technosignatures — that might provide evidence of a once extant extraterrestrial civilization that has since, for whatever reason, either gone extinct or left our immediate spatial neighborhood. His question arises from the current scientific interest in searching for biosignatures, which are evidence that living organisms, like microbes, are still alive.
Evidence of extinct aliens — beings Wright refers to as “Prior Indigenous Technological Species” (also the title of his paper on the subject) — could be extremely difficult to uncover. On Earth, it could very well be impossible, given billions of years and the constant weathering and geomorphing due to planetary plate tectonics. However, on other bodies inside the Solar System, conditions prevail where such evidence of technology might still exist. Wright further notes that if aliens have visited our Solar System, bodies like asteroids and the moon would have offered up optimal shelter (against radiation and meteor strikes) and privacy. And as for the technosignatures, they could come in an untold number of forms, from indicators of mining to artifacts that simply do not occur naturally.
In the abstract of his paper, Wright not only gives a nod to the general assumption that if alien artifacts do exist in the Solar System, they likely would be of extra-solar derivation, but he also extends the idea that the aliens could be indigenous, having emerged on planets like Venus and Mars.
“But if a prior technological, perhaps spacefaring, species ever arose in the Solar System,” Wright wrote, “it might have produced artifacts or other technosignatures that have survived to present day, meaning Solar System artifact SETI provides a potential path to resolving astrobiology’s question. Here, I discuss the origins and possible locations for technosignatures of such a prior indigenous technological species, which might have arisen on ancient Earth or another body, such as a pre-greenhouse Venus or a wet Mars. In the case of Venus, the arrival of its global greenhouse and potential resurfacing might have erased all evidence of its existence on the Venusian surface.”
The astronomer also noted that any found artifacts would likely be ancient and might only survive in limited places, such as beneath the surface of Mars, the Moon, or on the worlds in the outer Solar System.
Of course, there are alien hunters and UFO enthusiasts that are of the conviction that aliens of extraterrestrial and/or extra-solar origin have visited the Solar System. It seems that every week sees a new claim on the internet that proof of an ancient alien civilization has been discovered by a NASA rover or found in the NASA (or some other space agency) photo archives. Some, like ancient astronaut theorists (from whose ideations prompted the popular History Channel series Ancient Aliens), believe that technologically advanced aliens have interacted with humans throughout history and may have intermingled and/or interfered with humanity’s natural development.
Wright himself does not state that he believes the evidence is there (nor does he acknowledge an adherence to theories about ancient aliens or beliefs that artifacts already have been found on Mars — artifacts that NASA, when they do provide explanations for phenomena found in videos or photos, explains as natural planetary formations or mechanical and/or photographic anomalies), only that it would behoove those at the SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) Institute and others searching for signs of alien life to not narrow their search parameters only around signatures of extant life.
Professor Wright concluded that future SETI endeavors should include the search for extraterrestrial technosignatures.
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