No obvious evidence of advanced civilizations in 100,000 galaxies


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A search for evidence of advanced civilizations in the WISE orbiting telescope database has come up mostly empty.

Theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson proposed in the 1960s that advanced alien civilizations beyond Earth could be detected by the telltale evidence of their mid-infrared emissions. It was not until space-based telescopes like the WISE satellite that it became possible to make sensitive measurements of this radiation emitted by objects in space.

Roger Griffith, a postbaccalaureate researcher at Penn State and the lead author of the paper, scoured almost the entire catalog of the WISE satellite’s detections — nearly 100 million entries — for objects consistent with galaxies emitting too much mid-infrared radiation. He then individually examined and categorized around 100,000 of the most promising galaxy images. Wright reports, “We found about 50 galaxies that have unusually high levels of mid-infrared radiation. Our follow-up studies of those galaxies may reveal if the origin of their radiation results from natural astronomical processes, or if it could indicate the presence of a highly advanced civilization.”

Though the spin of the article is that no clear evidence of alien civilizations was found, I am most intrigued by those 50 candidate galaxies.

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13 comments

  • Kelly Starks

    I suppose really Dysons idea was like tribesman a thousand years ago being certain they could find any future civilization because of the smoke of their camp fires, and grazing ranges near their huts.

    …of course if you see a galaxy with the stars rearranged into a pretty geometric color with the different colored stars in esthetic bands…..

    ;)

  • steve mackelprang

    I’m probably missing something here, but it seems to me a civilization would have to be pretty “advanced” to leave a heat signature that is discernable at a galaxy level. That is a lot of stars radiating through all temperature ranges which in my mind would dwarf anything a civilization would produce, unless of course, it was ummm,, advanced?

  • Kelly Starks

    Bingo!
    They were talking about advanced high tech interstellar civilizations. Pretechnology, undeveloped solar systems like ours (without any real trace of a industrial civilization) would be type zero (nobody here) civilizations.
    ;)

  • PeterF

    Would a civilization that could do that even notice us?

  • pzatchok

    This is why I do not believe any form of practical faster than travel exists anyplace in our galaxy.

    And if there was no advanced civilization ever bothered to let itself be detected if it came here on a science mission.

    If they were that advanced we would NEVER know they came here to investigate us. They would have no need to ‘probe’ some Iowa farmers fanny. Or leave mutilated cattle behind in some field.

    They would have the technology and the intelligence to NEVER let us know.
    Our planet is not some interstellar teenager driving his dads stolen spaceship prank planet.

    And that is only if they were nice Vulcans and not homicidal Romulans who could roboticly send a few huge asteroids into our little planet and send us back to the drawing board evolutionarily wise.

    We are it as far as I am concerned and we better spend what time and effort we have getting off this small rock and out into the vast galaxy if we ever plan to live through the galactic roulette wheel of destruction. We better get our eggs out of just one basket and as fast as possible.

  • Don

    Did they use this technique to check our own galaxy?

  • Kelly Starks

    Probably, though it would be best to stay out from underfoot.

    Hint, there are whole generations of starsystems that were born, developed life bearing worlds, and grew old and died billions of years before our sun formed. Our species is only about 200,000 years old, our civilization maybe 10,000.
    … so what would the descendants of civilizations and species from 10 billion years ago be like? Would we even recognize them as alive? Or would they look like a strange area of space where the rules of physics change and do unimaginable things for no understandable reason?
    How would we react if one of those zones just transmitted keep out, and our star ship suddenly found itself hundreds of light years away? Not that they worried about killing a ship of us — it just keeps the other ants scared to wander in.

    There was a scene in the TV Show Babylon-5 that covered it beautifully. ;)

  • Kelly Starks

    > This is why I do not believe any form of practical faster than travel exists anyplace in our galaxy.

    This dose bring up a question that’s increasingly unnerving SETI folks. Its increasingly obvious that interstellar travel is practical with technologies little more advanced then ours. So where the hell is everyone? Over billions of years various civilizations should have wandered across us and left some trace. Something really alien, like a crystalline bread mold infecting certain rock strata, Or a creature that biologically doesn’t make sense (Cheetahs are given as a example, since they are so genetically close you can transplant organs from one to another with no issue, and theirs one “Forrest” of one unique colony “tree” that’s the only instance of that organism on the planet). Something left over from tens of thousands of years of folks wandering by and dropping things (ok, glacial ages and such trash a lot here – but one abandoned lunar staging area?).

    No one has come up with any plausible explanation.

  • Kelly Starks

    Kind of like looking at your own face without a mirror.

  • Edward

    I have a hypothesis that SETI is futile (although that does not prevent me from being a SETI member):

    1) We could be the first. Someone has to; why not us? Therefore SETI is futile.

    2) Others have a Star Trek-like prime directive and will not allow themselves to be discovered, yet. Therefore SETI is futile.

    3) Others are so advanced/different that we can’t detect their signals or spacecraft. Plus, they are almost as interested in us as we are in ants (yes, a Babylon-5 reference). Therefore SETI is futile.

    4) Various hypotheses are correct about a planet requiring exactly the right conditions to form intelligent life (e.g. a moon to create tides), resulting in Earth being the only planet that can form intelligent life. Therefore SETI is futile.

    6) The lifespan of any intelligent life form in the Drakes equation is too short for us to be at the right place and time to ever detect any other intelligent life. Therefore SETI is futile.

    7) We are looking for the wrong signs of life in the universe. Therefore SETI is futile.

    I cannot help but ponder that if SETI were not futile, we should have heard something from the others by now. ;-)

  • Kelly Starks

    > 1) We could be the first.

    In 14 billion years no one else??

    > 2) Others have a Star Trek-like prime directive and will
    > not allow themselves to be discovered, yet.

    And everyone has always obeyed the rules? since ever?

    > 3) Others are so advanced/different that we can’t detect
    > their signals or spacecraft. Plus, they are almost as
    > interested in us as we are in ants (yes, a Babylon-5
    > reference). ..

    ;)
    This makes more sense. the idea everyone forever is carefully tuning radio beams to a corrected for Doppler shift in out watering hole band for millions of years until we listen?
    If they were that patent, they wouldn’t bother.
    No reason at all to think radio is the ultimate form of interstellar messaging. So we might as well be looking for smoke signals from cellphones.

    > 4) Various hypotheses are correct about a planet
    > requiring exactly the right conditions to form intelligent
    > life (e.g. a moon to create tides), resulting in Earth
    > being the only planet that can form intelligent life.

    I can see Earth being rare, but THAT rare?

    > 6) The lifespan of any intelligent life form in the Drakes
    > equation is too short for us to be at the right place and
    > time to ever detect any other intelligent life.

    Or at least any interested in communicating. I mean give us a thousand years and we’ld certainly have altered dramatically as a civilization, technology, likely species.

    If we were interested, we’ld have reconed other worlds long before then. No reason to keep broadcasting forever.

    > 7) We are looking for the wrong signs of life in the
    > universe. Therefore SETI is futile.

    Hell all were looking for is signs of radio traffic trying to contact us!

    > I cannot help but ponder that if SETI were not futile,
    > we should have heard something from the others
    > by now. ;-)

    Odds are they should have been here multiple times by now over the eras. Shouldn’t their be signs?
    What are the odds of anyone out there being near enough our age to be interested in talking with us, other then scientific research of beginning civilizations – which might never need them contacting us?

    When we go exploring we could well find space, or other worlds littered with artifacts from hundreds of thousands of years ago, that were just abandoned as the builders moved no. Hopefully not to many auto defense grids targeting anyone without the correct access codes.
    “Identify, or be destroyed as a vandal!”
    ;)

  • Edward

    The secret could be that we are supposed to find the 1 X 4 X 9 obelisk hiding under the Tycho Magnetic Anomaly. ;-)

    Or maybe we ARE the first and it is OUR job to plant obelisks. Perhaps that is the meaning of life, and our philosophers have been barking up the wrong obelisk (or 42), all these centuries.

  • Kelly Starks

    ;)

    Hopefully the answer isn’t their all hiding all traces of themselves from advanced xenophobic races. ;)

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