To Find Extraterrestrial Life, Follow the Asteroid Mines
By Christopher Shea Everett Collection
As they train their telescopes on other solar systems, scientists should be on the lookout for signs of industrial-scale mining, two astronomers argue in a new paper.
The logic is quite straightforward, however outlandish-sounding: if other beings have developed advanced civilizations, they, too, may face the problem of dwindling natural resources. and perhaps those beings will have the means to venture off their home planet in search of valuable minerals, just as humans may eventually wind up harvesting material from “our” asteroid belt.
Mining might be detected by studying the distribution of the size of objects orbiting a star, say the authors of the article, published at arXiv.org. if there are too few large ones, statistically speaking, that might betoken mining, they say.
Astronomers can also infer the composition of objects in a solar system by studying the composition of the star. if certain minerals are underrepresented, perhaps intelligent beings have absconded with them.
Such signs could also have natural causes, concede the authors (affiliated, by the way, with the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the University of Edinburgh): ”we cannot … expect a conclusive detection of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) by TAM [Targeted Asteroid Mining]—what it can provide is a call to attention.” they describe their proposal as merely “another string to the bow of a multi-wavelength, multi-signal SETI enterprise.”
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