Let’s face it, we’re fascinated with the extraterrestrial. UFO sightings, Steven Spielberg’s ET, Roswell, Area 51 – we can’t get enough!
The search for alien life has been going on for decades, but soon, the search may take a giant step forward.
According to Space.com, researchers have been discussing plans for the largest telescope ever to be built. At an astounding 250 feet, Colossus would be twice the size of any other telescope. And with a price tag estimated at $1 billion, the telescope would use thin mirror technology to keep the costs down.
Colossus would be sensitive enough to detect planets up to 70 light years away, the scientists say. Often times, telescopes (like Hubble) are sent into space to get past the Earth’s atmosphere, increasing visibility. But a telescope powerful enough to see that far on the ground is really something.
Aside from the “Wow!” signal in 1977, astronomers have no definitive evidence or communication with extraterrestrial life. Mostly they try to pick up signals aliens may have sent out; but the problem is that aliens could be broadcasting on different channels that we don’t know about, or they aren’t sending them at all.
In addition to looking for alien transmissions, scientists have sent their own signals out into space in hopes of reaching alien life. But Stephen Hawking warns us to be careful about alerting them to our existence and whereabouts.
In a television series on Discovery Channel called “Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking”, he says that aliens may not be the cute little green beings we make them out to be in comics and souvenirs, but instead could be warriors on the hunt for new territory and resources.
Of course, there is no way to know one way or the other until we actually find them, but it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.
However, with Colossus’s heat-seeking technology, astronomers may be able to detect extraterrestrial civilizations without them knowing.
Under the Radar
That’s perhaps the most exciting part about this new telescope.
The assumption is that aliens cluster much like we humans do in cities and towns, so heat coming off the planet would not be uniform. Think of it like this: if you’ve ever been on a plane at night you’ve seen the way light is more concentrated in larger cities than in rural farm areas.
It’s the same idea, only with infrared light.
This concept is based on a hypothesis first thought of by physicist Freeman Dyson in the 1960s. His idea was that an extraterrestrial civilization would try to capture the energy their planet needed with a structure he deemed the “Dyson sphere.” By surrounding their star with the sphere, they would collect enough energy and then disperse the rest into space.
Dyson claimed that starts which appear dark on a telescope but are thermally bright would be an indication of the sphere.
Similarly, the team of scientists working on Colossus believes that a planet which appears dim on a telescope but is thermally bright would be a sign of civilization.
Currently, the team is seeking funding for this large telescope. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute is one possibility, but they are focused on radio transmissions at this time, and the team is considering other partners.
Should they receive the necessary funds, though, the scientists project that Colossus could be built in as little as five years. No location has been decided at this time, but there is talk of placing it somewhere in southern California or northern Mexico.
What do you think? Is there life out there, and if so, do you think this thermal imaging will be able to locate it?
Andrew is fascinated by aliens, space and anything technology related. He currently works at Phoenix TS, a technology training company.