NASA's New Conference on Alien Life Is Happening Now, and You Can Ask The Experts Questions!

Thursday, 27 September 2018 - 12:33PM
Astronomy
Astrobiology
Alien Life
Thursday, 27 September 2018 - 12:33PM
NASA's New Conference on Alien Life Is Happening Now, and You Can Ask The Experts Questions!
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No matter how you slice it, astronomers have discovered a lot of exoplanets in the Milky Way galaxy—3,779, to be exact—and between the TESS and Kepler missions, we can expect to find a lot more. Though not all of them are going to be good candidates for life, the sheer number of exoplanets (and the discovery that moons may be better hosts for life) has contributed to a growing excitement over the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI. Earlier this year, NASA got the nod from Congress to start building plans to search for advanced alien life, and now the NASA Technosignatures Workshop (Sept. 26-28) is happening in Houston, Texas.

Best of all, the experts are opening themselves up for questions from the public via a Reddit AMA!

If you're confused about what technosignatures are and how they fit into the search for alien life, here's NASA's explanation:

Opening quote
The term technosignatures has a broader meaning than the historically used 'search for extraterrestrial intelligence,' or SETI, which has generally been limited to communication signals. Technosignatures like radio or laser emissions, signs of massive structures or an atmosphere full of pollutants could imply intelligence.
Closing quote


The reference to 'massive structures' is an oblique reference to the frenzy of interest that occurred around Tabby's Star, whose strange patterns of dimming gave rise to the theory that it was being enclosed in an alien megastructure similar to a Dyson sphere. It seems the key difference between the normal SETI protocol and what NASA is exploring at this workshop is that the communications signals SETI previously searched for would be intentional and carry a message, similar to the Arecibo message humanity sent out in 1974. Instead, NASA is looking for phenomena that are produced by technologically advanced civilizations, but not necessarily intended to be discovered. They're already doing something similar with biosignatures on exoplanets.

In any case, humanity should be wary about any messages we do receive from alien civilizations—according to one study, those messages might be able to destroy human civilization just by decoding them.
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