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Web Extra: The hunt for extraterrestrials

Scientists are developing new techniques to search for extraterrestrial intelligence — ones that could track down E.T.s even if they are trying to hide.
RELATED TOPICS: EXTRATERRESTRIALS
ET Signal
Once a civilization colonizes other planets in its home system, the inhabitants will need to stay in contact. Astronomers have started looking for pulsed-laser communications between worlds in systems where two planets align with each other and with Earth.
Astronomy: Roen Kelly
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence began in earnest in 1960 when astronomer Frank Drake started to eavesdrop on the stars Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani with the 85-foot radio telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia. Drake didn’t find anything during his pursuit, dubbed “Project Ozma,” but he got other researchers thinking about ways to detect alien civilizations.

Fast-forward half a century, and you’ll find many teams of scientists trying to detect life — intelligent or otherwise — in the cosmos. In Bruce Dorminey’s June article, “A new way to search for life in the universe,” he describes attempts to detect photosynthesis on other worlds. A key step to life on Earth, photosynthesis converts sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water into chemical energy and molecular oxygen, the latter a necessity for earthly intelligence.

Astronomy magazine has covered many other methods scientists are deploying in the quest for intelligent life. Here we present two recent articles. In “How to find E.T. with infrared light,” scientists Jeff R. Kuhn, Svetlana V. Berdyugina, David Halliday, and Caisey Harlingten explain how they and others are hunting for the heat signatures an advanced civilization would almost certainly emit. And in “The new search for alien intelligence,” science writer David L. Chandler describes how researchers are seeking signs of Dyson spheres and laser communications from beyond the solar system. If humans don’t find E.T.s out there, it certainly won’t be from a lack of trying.
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