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Photo credit: NASA (the Andromeda galaxy)
Earlier this month NASA scientists made some bold declarations about the presence of alien life. The administration told us to expect some certain discoveries within 10-25 years. Now that prediction looks a bit overeager after NASA’s own technology failed to find signs of alien life in a widespread search.
Granted, NASA’s recent prediction was based on the knowledge of our own solar system being awash in water. Where water exists so does the possibility of life. In our own solar system, those life forms will likely take the form of microbes. NASA has strongly existed that we will find advanced alien life forms in other galaxies. This belief is also widespread amongst our population. Many people believe that humans cannot possibly be the only sentient life forms in the universe. We can’t be alone, right?
Bad news: The presence of advanced alien life may exist, but the likelihood of a concrete discovery isn’t looking good. NASA’s own researchers performed an exhaustive search of 100,000 galaxies using the WISE orbiting observatory. The team found absolutely no evidence of alien civilizations. According to Jason T. Wright (the Penn State University professor who kickstarted this research plan), “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.”
Wright’s search plan was based upon the idea that any advanced civilization would use its stars to power their communications and transportation. The fundamentals of thermodynamics hold that this energy would be “radiated away as heat in the mid-infrared wavelengths.” This knowledge dates back to the 1960s, courtesy of Physicist Freeman Dyson. NASA’s finally putting this information to use with the WISE satellite, a space-based telescope that is sensitive enough to measure such radiation.
Researcher Roger Griffith led the charge in the examination of 100,000 individual galaxies. He reported that while 50 galaxies contained “unusually high levels of mid-infrared radiation,” the team did not observe any obvious signs of alien life. This outcome doesn’t mean that life doesn’t exist in these galaxies, but NASA hasn’t detected a civilization that is using starlight for energy purposes. Griffith says, “That’s interesting because these galaxies are billions of years old, which should have been plenty of time for them to have been filled with alien civilizations if they exist. Either they don’t exist or they don’t yet use enough energy for us to recognize them.”
NASA won’t be giving up on the search for alien life. The study revealed some “puzzling new objects … but we need to study them more carefully before we can say for sure exactly what’s going on.” Wright promises that further research “should be able to push our sensitivity to alien technology down to much lower levels … This pilot study is just the beginning.” The truth is out there!