Alien Planet Pollution Might Help Scientists in Search for Extraterrestrial Life

Alien Planet Pollution Might Help Scientists in Search For Extraterrestrial Life

It is believed that alien planet pollution might help scientists on Earth in their search for extraterrestrial life. At least that is the new theory by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. They are suggesting that it might be possible to view the marks of specific pollutants under ideal conditions

Because of this, they think humanity is closer than ever to being on the brink of detecting alien signs of life on other worlds. In examining the atmospheres of exoplanets, astronomers are able to look for gases such as methane and oxygen which would only concur if replaced by life. However these gases can come from simple life forms such as bacteria. Major questions center on advanced civilizations and if they would be leaving measurable signs.

They just may be if they emit industrialized pollution into their own atmosphere. The new research done by Harvard has brought up a different approach toward the search for otherworldly intelligence. Henry Lin attends Harvard and is the chief author of the study. Lin stated that scientists consider industrial pollution to be a sign of intellectual life. However he feels civilizations who are more advanced than people of Earth that have their own SETI programs, would most likely believe pollution to be a sign of unintelligent life because it is not wise to contaminate the planet’s air that one lives on.

Avi Loeb, who is co-author, added that humans often think and call ETs “little green men,” but the aliens that would be discovered by this method should not be labeled ‘green’ since they would be considered ecologically hostile.

The research group stated that the new James Webb Space Telescope ought to be able to perceive two different types of chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. These are chemicals that destroy the ozone which are put in aerosols and solvents. They deliberated the JWST could figure out the indication of CFCs if atmospheric conditions were 10 times the level of those on Earth. It is thought that a predominantly progressive civilization may deliberately pollute their planet’s atmosphere to high levels in order to universally warm the entire world that might otherwise be too cold for existence.

However there happens to be a giant limitation to this effort. The telescope would only be able to sense pollutants on an Earth-like planet rotating a white dwarf star, which is what is left when a star like the Sun dies. That set-up would take full advantage of the atmospheric signal. If it picked up pollution on an Earth-like planet circling a Sun-like star, that would necessitate an instrument that is even beyond the JWST, a next-next-generation telescope, one that has not been invented yet.

The group stated that white dwarfs could be better places to search for life than formerly believed because recent observations discovered planets in alike situations. These planets might have lasted through the distending of dying stars during the red giant phase, or could have even formed out of the material shed from the death of the star.

While looking for CFCs could flush out a current alien civilization, it could also identify the fragments of a civilization that destroyed itself. Some pollutants can last for over 50,000 years in Earth’s atmosphere while others only hang around for about 10 years or so. Spotting molecules from the long-lived class but nothing from the short-lived group would show that the sources were gone.

The research study has been sent in and accepted for print up in the space journal The Astrophysical Journal. It will be available soon. The paper discusses in more detail the above belief that alien planet pollution might help scientists on Earth in their search for extraterrestrial life.

By Kimberly Ruble


The Huffington Post

Earth Sky News

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3 Responses to "Alien Planet Pollution Might Help Scientists in Search for Extraterrestrial Life"

  1. Tabitha Farrar   July 30, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Its funny, I for some reason had never considered that aliens could pollute, as if it is only a human trait to do so…..Kind of makes me feel better about the human race, twisted as that may be….

  2. Michael Schultheiss   July 29, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    A part of me finds it sad that we have hit on pollution as the go-to for finding alien civilizations. Then again, it makes perfect sense: our species, and presumably any other species with similar capacities, evolved to be capable of dismantling the biosphere (to borrow E. O. Wilson’s turn of phrase). Great article!

    • Kimberly Ruble   July 29, 2014 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks again!! =)

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