Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The best way to find alien life is to search for signs of mining

Scientists have spent 50 years sending radio signals deep into space in an attempt to establish contact with extra-terrestrials. But it now appears there might be a much simpler way of finding alien life - we should look for signs of mining in asteroid belts.

Mining should be easy to spot because it would create lots of dust due to its effect on local temperatures, or so the theory goes. Aliens would also be more likely to mine large objects instead of smaller ones, researchers believe.

The claims were made by Dr Duncan Forgan, of the University of Edinburgh, and Dr Martin Elvis, of the Harvard Smithsonian Center For Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They suggest that as materials such as gold, platinum, iron and silicon are plentiful in asteroids, then intelligent alien life would be likely to exploit this. Any extrasolar mining would produce three effects that should, in theory, be detected from Earth.

Firstly, scientists are aware of the specific ratio of elements found in common debris belts. Therefore, using spectroscopy, they should be able to spot asteroid belts where this ratio is different.

Secondly, aliens would be more likely to mine large asteroid belts due to their having more elements and minerals for harvesting.

Lastly, any large scale mining would result in a great deal of dust that would take heat from the nearby star and generate an identifiable thermal signature.

Dr Forgan and Dr Elvis claim that spotting all of these tell-tale signs raises the likelihood of pinpointing extra-terrestrials. However, they admit that all three also occur naturally and that their recommendations only increase the chance of finding alien life.

In a paper published in, they write: 'We find that individual observational signatures of asteroid mining can be explained by natural phenomena, and as such they cannot provide conclusive detections of extra-terrestrial intelligences.

'They could provide a means of identifying unusual candidate systems for further study using other techniques.'

No comments :