Search for interstellar life turns from radio to infrared

The search for extraterrestrial life continues. For three Penn State researchers, the search should not focus on radio waves, as it long has, but on Dyson Spheres.

Dyson Spheres, you say? Isn't space already the greatest of all vacuums? Well yes, but these Dyson Spheres are much more interesting. Freeman Dyson came up with the idea of the Spheres in 1960. He said that civilizations, as they advance, will inevitably run out of fuel. This constitutes an epochal challenge to the society, and in response to it, they would construct a Dyson Sphere. The sphere is a solar power collection system that operates in orbit of the home star itself.

Looking for these Dyson Spheres is a bit of a jump to conclusions, but so is the search for extraterrestrial life through radio waves. Humanity is already scaling back the use of radio waves as potentially much more advanced civilization might have long since stopped using them, which reduces the effectiveness of a search for that sort of communication. On its face, looking for star-sized power plants doesn't sound much more plausible, but Dyson Spheres hit upon a universal need of any advanced civilization, the need for energy.

And so the hunt is on. Dyson Spheres, due to their nature, would be eminently detectable by infrared telescopes. Not only can Dyson Spheres themselves be hunted, but excess heat generated by the massive power generation could also point towards a nearby Dyson Sphere. The Penn State team will have access to three different infrared space surveys, most importantly NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE).

The study is funded by the Templeton Foundation and will run for the next two years.

Via The Atlantic

For the latest tech stories, follow DVICE on Twitter
at @dvice or find us on Facebook