Weekend Feature: Can NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope Identify ET Astro-Engineering Artifacts?

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Could NASA's Kepler planet-hunting space telescope identify ET astro-engineering artifacts if they exist in the Milky Way? Kepler has identified over 1300 exo planets to date, could it also detect an ET object? Jill Tartar at SETI suggests it could.

The world-renowned physicist, Freeman Dyson of Princeton's Advanced Institute of Study (Einstein's former home), wrote that "Life may succeed against all odds in molding the Universe to its own purposes. And the design of the inanimate Universe may not be as detached from the potentialities of life and intelligence as scientists of the 20th century have tended to suppose."


The underlying assumption of Dyson's statement is his belief that in a Universe some 14 billion years old that there are advanced technological civilizations in existence far more ancient than our 4.5 billion year-old Earth who are capable of feats of "macro-engineering" that we can hardly imagine.

Following Dyson's lead, Milan Cirkovic of the Astronomical Observatory of Belgrade, believes that rather than searching for radio or optical laser signals, the search should seek out artifacts of cosmic macro-engineering, which might include Dyson Spheres — an artificial cluster of rotating objects the size of a planetary orbit that would collect almost all the solar energy available and create a vast habitat for life.

In a fascinating paper, Cirkovic wrote that this approach makes far more sense to detect a civilization immensely older and more advanced than us: "It seems preposterous even to contemplate any possibility of communication between us and billion-year old super civilizations."

Cirkovic calls his recommendation the "Dysonian Approach": "Even," he continues,"if they are not actively communicating with us, that does not mean that we cannot detect them and their astro-engineering activities. Their detection signatures may be much older than their communication signatures. Unless they have taken great lengths to hide or disguise their detection signatures, the terrestrial observer should still be able to observe them at those wavelengths and those should be distinguishable from normal stellar spectra."

Echoing Cirkovic and Dyson is Luc Arnold (Observatoire de Haute-Provence, France), who suggests that the same methods could be employed to find artificial planet-sized objects in orbit around stars. Arnold believes that transits of multiple objects could be used to emit signals that might be detected by other civilizations.

The light-curves of objects from spheres to triangles and even more exotic shapes will have their own distinctive signature, even as multiple objects could send a ‘message’ whose timing and number would announce the willingness of their makers to communicate.

Upcoming missions like Kepler and the European Corot, according the Centauri Dreams blog,  may be able to detect such objects as they look for planetary transits.

Russia has a new space mission in preparation that can be used for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The project Millimetron is a millimeter and sub-millimeter space observatory with a 10 meter diameter mirror, very sensitive receivers for single dish mode and will be used for orbiting VLBI (Very Long Base Interferometer). This telescope would be convenient for a very sensitive all sky survey with the possibility of constructing images of sources with a very high angular resolution. The mission will be useful for the search for astro-engineering constructions in the Universe.

The goal of the project is to construct a space observatory operating in millimeter, sub-millimeter and infrared wavelength ranges using 12-m cryogenic telescope. The observatory will provide possibility to conduct astronomical observations with super high sensitivity (down to nano Jansky level) in a single dish mode, and observations with super high angular resolution.

The space-based observatory will also make it possible to look for the signatures of wormholes at the center of large galaxies.

An ordinary black hole focuses light rays passing close to it as if it were a giant concave lens –- an effect known as gravitational lensing. A wormhole's negative mass  of phantom matter would have the opposite gravitational lensing effect to normal matter, making any light passing through the wormhole from another universe or point in space-time diverge, and emerge from it as a bright ring. Meanwhile, any stars behind it would shine through the middle.

“It is an interesting attempt to actually think of what a real signature for a wormhole would be, but it is more hypothetical than observational,” says Lawrence Krauss professor and director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University. “Without any idea of what phantom matter is and its possible interactions with light, it is not clear one can provide a general argument.”

Millimetron Project is included into the Space Research Program of Russian Federation for 2015. The launch date for the first spacecraft is planned for 2016.

Casey Kazan via Cirkovic, "Macro-Engineering in the Galactic Context: A New Agenda for Astrobiology" and Centauri Dreams Blog

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