After searching 100,000 galaxies for signs of highly advanced extraterrestrial life, a team of scientists using observations from NASA’s WISE orbiting observatory has found no evidence of advanced civilizations in them.
“The idea behind our research is that, if an entire galaxy had been colonized by an advanced spacefaring 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,” says Jason T. Wright, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State, who conceived of and initiated the research.
The research team’s first paper about its Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies Survey (G-HAT) is featured in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. Also among the team’s discoveries are some mysterious new phenomena in our own Milky Way galaxy.
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,” Wright says. “This same basic physics causes your computer to radiate heat while it is turned on.”
Theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson proposed in the 1960s that advanced alien civilizations beyond Earth could be detected by the telltale 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.
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