The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) has been primarily concerned with detecting artificial radio signals as a means of confirming the
presence of extraterrestrial intelligences (ETIs), but there are also other methods to detect advanced extraterrestrial species.
The development of civilisations like ours into spacefaring, multi-planet entities requires significant raw materials to
construct vehicles and habitats. Scientists now suggest that interplanetary debris, including asteroids and comets, may
provide such a source of raw materials.
According to Duncan Forgan of the University of Edinburgh and Martin Elvis of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,
it could be possible to detect aliens by looking closer at asteroids.
If extraterrestrials are engaged in asteroid mining, their activities may be detectable from Earth.
In their opinion, the first detectable sign from any type of alien deep-space mining activity would be
''a debris ring circling a star.'' This debris, they think, could be what they refer to as the leftovers of planet formation.
By studying asteroids, scientists think it is possible to detect advanced alien species.
"One class of astrophysical object currently enjoying significant attention is the debris discs surrounding evolved stars.
The remnants of more massive, gaseous discs that encircle young stars during their formation and initial evolution, they are composed of rocky/icy debris
in a distribution of sizes.
Like the belts of asteroids, comets and other bodies found in our own Solar System, such debris may be the "leftovers" from planet formation, and
is expected to be common in planetary systems, with lifetimes of order tens of millions of years after the star's formation.
Debris discs are typically detected in the infrared (IR) and sub-millimetre regimes, using photometry, spectroscopy or imaging.
Therefore, they have been ideal candidates for study using space-based and ground-based telescopes over the past 30 or so years, beginning with
the first detection of a debris disc around Vega. They can be used as forensic evidence of earlier planet formation, and they may even confirm the
presence of planets due to dynamical features such as clumping and resonances.
With new data arriving from the recently commissioned Herschel Space Telescope, and the wealth of data generated from its predecessor, Spitzer,
it would be advantageous for SETI researchers if debris discs could provide artificial signals indicating extraterrestrial intelligence.
Targeted asteroid mining (TAM) could provide such evidence.
Engineering limitations experienced by mankind will be the same for ETIs with a similar evolutionary history - considering the large quantities of
raw material required to build space vehicles and habitats, TAM may be a difficult, but necessary (or at least highly desirable) skill for
civilisations to advance along the path to becoming a truly spacefaring civilisation.
This would appear to be true for both biological and post-biological civilisations, as both require construction and manufacturing as a
means of sustaining themselves.
We propose that the deliberate extraction of specific raw material by extraterrestrial intelligences
(ETIs) from a debris disc may provide a variety of artificial observational signatures, detectable in the infrared," Forgan and Elvis write
in their paper published in the International Journal of Astrobiology.
If aliens are engaged in asteroid mining, their activities may be detectable from Earth
The two scientists do openly admit that TAM (Targeted Asteroid Mining) will provide conclusive evidence of extraterrestrial presence,
but it will shed a light on the possibility. This, they hope, will lead to further study and exploration.
"We find that individual observational signatures of asteroid mining can be explained by natural phenomena, and as such they cannot
provide conclusive detections of ETIs. But, it may be the case that several signatures appearing in the same system will prove harder
to model without extraterrestrial involvement.
Therefore signatures of TAM are not detections of ETI in their own right, but as part of "piggy-back" studies carried out in tandem
with conventional debris disc research, they could provide a means of identifying unusual candidate systems for further study using
other SETI techniques, " Forgan and Elvis said.
In other words, if scientists want to detect the presence of alien civilizations, they can not only listen to signals from our space,
but also focus on targeted asteroid mining which eventually could reveal possible alien activities.
MessageToEagle.com based on material provided by Arxiv.org
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