27May2015

Advanced Alien Civilizations Possible In 50 Galaxies

Scientists can monitor galaxies like andromeda to see if they are producing too much radiation for the number of stars

Scientists can monitor galaxies like andromeda to see if they are producing too much radiation for the number of stars Photo: AP

Advanced alien life is possible in 50 galaxies, astronomers have said, after finding they are emitting unusually high levels of radiation. Its an indicator something interesting is going on.

A team of scientists at Penn State University in the US, has been studying observations from Nasa’s WISE orbiting observatory looking for traces of the huge energy produced by technologies from sophisticated extra-terrestrial races.

Just as Earth sends heat and light into space, researchers say a similar signature should be emitted by other advanced civilisations. And after scouring 100,000 galaxies they have come across 50 which hold promise. “We found about 50 galaxies that have unusually high levels of mid-infrared radiation,” said Roger Griffith, a researcher at Penn State and the lead author of the paper

“Our follow-up studies of those galaxies may reveal if the origin of their radiation results from natural astronomical processes, or if it could indicate the presence of a highly advanced civilization.”

A false-color image of the mid-infrared emission from the Great Galaxy in Andromeda, as seen by Nasa’s WISE space telescope. The orange colour represents emission from the heat of stars forming in the galaxy’s spiral arms

Theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson proposed in the 1960s that advanced alien civilizations beyond Earth could be detected by the tell-tale evidence of their mid-infrared emissions.It was not until space-based telescopes like the WISE satellite that it became possible to make sensitive measurements of this radiation emitted by objects in space.

“The idea behind our research is that, if an entire galaxy had been colonized by an advanced space faring civilization, the energy produced by that civilization’s technologies would be detectable in mid-infrared wavelengths — exactly the radiation that the WISE satellite was designed to detect for other astronomical purposes,” said Dr Jason Wright, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State University, who conceived of and initiated the research.

“Whether an advanced spacefaring civilization uses the large amounts of energy from its galaxy’s stars to power computers, space flight, communication, or something we can’t yet imagine, fundamental thermodynamics tells us that this energy must be radiated away as heat in the mid-infrared wavelengths. “This same basic physics causes your computer to radiate heat while it is turned on.

“Where is everybody?”

“As we look more carefully at the light from these galaxies,” said Wright, “we should be able to push our sensitivity to alien technology down to much lower levels, and to better distinguish heat resulting from natural astronomical sources from heat produced by advanced technologies. This pilot study is just the beginning.”

The team also found new phenomenon in our own galaxy, The Milky Way. Among the discoveries are a bright nebula around the nearby star 48 Librae, and a cluster of objects easily detected by WISE in a patch of sky that appears totally black when viewed with telescopes that detect only visible light.

“This cluster is probably a group of very young stars forming inside a previously undiscovered molecular cloud, and the 48 Librae nebula apparently is due to a huge cloud of dust around the star, but both deserve much more careful study,” Matthew Povich, an assistant professor of astronomy at Cal Poly Pomona said. The research team’s first paper about its Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies Survey (G-HAT), is published in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series

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