A team of astronomers, engineers, and physicists from the University of Hawaii, the University of Freiburg, and elsewhere has proposed a new and powerful technique to search for intelligent life.
Rather than looking for radio waves, the team suggests searching for the heat signatures of nearby planets, which requires a giant telescope that could detect infrared radiation directly from an exoplanet, thus revealing the presence of a civilization.
“The energy footprint of life and civilization appears as infrared heat radiation. A convenient way to describe the strength of this signal is in terms of total stellar power that is incident on the host planet,” said Jeff R Kuhn of the University of Hawaii, the project’s lead scientist.
The technique arises from the fact that a civilization produces power that adds to the heat on a planet, beyond the heat received from its host star. A large enough telescope, idealised for infrared detection, could survey planets orbiting stars within 60 light-years of the Sun to see whether or not they host civilizations.