Astronomers Want to Start Looking for Aliens Who Are Looking for Us

Tuesday, 01 March 2016 - 2:59PM
Astronomy
Alien Life
Tuesday, 01 March 2016 - 2:59PM
Astronomers Want to Start Looking for Aliens Who Are Looking for Us
Many methods have been proposed for finding intelligent extraterrestrial life, but considering the vastness of the universe, and the fact that we don't know anything about these potential alien civilizations, it's like looking for a needle in an infinite haystack. Now, astronomers are suggesting we narrow down the search to planets that may have detected the existence of Earth--and are looking for the "intelligent aliens" who live there.

We often detect exoplanets when their transit across the Sun causes a brief dimming of the Sun's light, and according to the newest research, aliens may detect Earth in the same way. In a new study led by Rene Heller of the Max Planck Institute, researchers theorize that the search for extraterrestrial intelligence should be targeted at planets that can see Earth transiting the Sun. If they discovered Earth as an exoplanet, and were close enough to study the planet further, they would easily see that our atmosphere has been altered by the presence of intelligent, technologically advanced life.

Opening quote
"They have a higher motivation to contact us, because they have a better means to identify us as an inhabited planet," Heller told Nature.
Closing quote
According to the researchers' calculations, this would narrow down the search considerably, as only approximately 10,000 stars with planets that could see Earth exist within that range, which they estimate to be about 1,000 parsecs (3,260 light years) from Earth. They suggest that future projects that aim to detect signals from alien civilizations, such as the upcoming Breakthrough Listen project, should focus on these regions, although there are no plans for that as of yet. 

This is an interesting and somewhat intuitive theory, although like any proposal in the search for alien life, rests on a lot of assumptions. In particular, it assumes that "intelligence" in another species would look somewhat similar to human intelligence, that they would develop comparable technologies, and that they would use the same techniques as humans when searching for extraterrestrial life. But still, considering how long the odds are, any reasonably logical method for narrowing down the search would likely be helpful.
Science
Space
Astronomy
Alien Life

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