Another way for an alien society to fuel its advanced technology is by using solar energy—just like us! Only, in the scenario envisioned by physicist Freeman Dyson in 1960, the aliens' solar panels would completely surround a star. We could theoretically detect these hulking megastructures by looking for their heat signatures–some or all of the star's light would be obscured, while its infrared output would likely increase as it got re-radiated from the solar panels. Anders Sandberg via Flickr CC By 2.0
At a meeting in July, NASA scientists predicted that humans will detect extraterrestrial life within the next 20 years.
The Kepler telescope has churned up thousands of new exoplanet candidates over the past few years, and now scientists estimate that there could be upwards of 100 billion planets in the Milky Way. At the same time, here on Earth, we’ve found life thriving even in the strangest places. That’s got some scientists thinking that the odds are stacked in favor of life being pervasive throughout the universe—and now it’s just a matter of finding it.
NASA’s prediction is based on two telescopes expected to debut in 2017 and 2018. The first is the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which will look for Earth-sized exoplanets. The second is the James Webb Space Telescope, which should (hopefully) be able to spot water and the chemical signatures of life in the atmospheres of other worlds.
But there are other ways to look for aliens. Here are some of science’s most interesting proposals. They may sound a little nutty, but–who knows?– they might just work.