NASA has a new approach to hunting aliens, and it involves scouring the stars for evidence of advanced technology.
In the past, NASA has focused its search for alien life on hunting for signs of biological activity. Now, they’ve got a new idea. The space agency is expanding its search for extraterrestrial life with the hunt for “technosignatures,” Fox News reported Friday.
“Technosignatures are signs or signals, which if observed, would allow us to infer the existence of technological life elsewhere in the universe,” NASA stated.
According to NASA, the most obvious technosignatures to look out for are radio signals, though the agency noted, “there are many others that have not been explored fully.”
As NASA explained, technosignatures could imaginably be found in the least expected places. A planet laden with an “atmosphere full of pollutants” might not seem like the ideal cradle of alien life, but it could imply an industrial civilization is humming away below the smog.
Likewise, NASA said it’s now keeping its eyes peeled for other unusual signs of advanced alien life, such as “laser emissions” and even “signs of massive structures.”
That last one may sound far-fetched, but was a nod to the wave of public interest in Tabby’s Star since 2015.
“Kepler’s discovery in 2015 of irregular fluctuations in brightness in what came to be known as Tabby’s Star led to speculation of an alien megastructure,” NASA explained.
When the irregular dimming was first discovered, researchers suggested there was a small chance it was caused by the construction of a gigantic device designed to harvest the star’s energy.
“We’d never seen anything like this star,” Yale University’s Tabetha Boyajian told The Atlantic at the time.
“It was really weird. We thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.”
Since then, The Guardian has reported astronomers have concluded Tabby’s Star is almost certainly surrounded by an unusually massive dust cloud.
Unusual, but not extraterrestrial life.
Just because it wasn’t aliens this time, NASA suggested that doesn’t mean cases like Tabby’s Star aren’t worth closely scrutinizing.
“Tabby’s Star has demonstrated the potential usefulness of looking for anomalies in data collected from space, as signs of technologically-advanced life may appear as aberrations from the norm,” the agency stated.
In other words, NASA is trying to use its imagination, though the agency emphasized that one unexplained anomaly isn’t enough to prove the existence of aliens.
“Scientists caution that we will need more than an unexplained signal to definitively prove the existence of technological life,” NASA explained.
If you’d like to get in on the search for alien life yourself, you can tune in to NASA’s Technosignatures Workshop. The workshop will be live streamed from Houston throughout Friday.