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NASA Kepler-Mission Findings Trigger Search for ET Technologies

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“Kepler has now discovered over 2,000 new worlds around other stars, most of them smaller than twice the size of Earth,  and many probably having water,” said Geoff Marcy, professor of astronomy, University of California, Berkeley. “This flood of nearly Earth-size planets offers the first opportunity for us humans to hunt for other intelligent species that may have evolved on them.”

“Technological civilizations may communicate with their space probes located throughout the galaxy by using laser beams, either in visible light or infrared light,” he said. ”Laser light is detectable from other civilizations because the power is concentrated into a narrow beam and the light is all at one specific color or frequency. The lasers outshine the host star at the color of the laser.”

Marcy, who kicked off the search for extrasolar planets 20 years ago, plans to sift through data from the Kepler space telescope in search of evidence for civilizations advanced enough to have built massive orbiting “solar” power stations.  Marcy is a member of the Kepler space telescope team that is observing the light from 160,000 stars in our galaxy in search of ones that dim periodically because of a planet passing or transiting in front of them. Theoretical physicist Raphael Bousso will look for ways of detecting universes other than our own, and try to understand what these alternate universes, or multiverses, will look like.




Marcy realized that the Kepler data might also reveal stars with orbiting power stations called Dyson Spheres: megastructures that orbit a star and capture a large proportion of its energy. They were proposed by physicist Freeman Dyson more than 50 years ago as a likely way for advanced civilizations to power their power-hungry societies. Marcy will look at 1,000 of Kepler’s extrasolar systems in search of solar arrays that pass in front of stars and make them wink on and off.

Marcy and Bousso are among 20 innovative researchers who will share more than $4 million in New Frontiers in Astronomy & Cosmology International Grants that were announced Thursday, Oct. 4, by the University of Chicago. The grants were made possible through funding from the Pennsylvania-based John Templeton Foundation as a way to encourage scientists and students worldwide to explore fundamental, big questions in astronomy and cosmology that engage groundbreaking ideas on the nature of the universe.

Many of the recipients, including Marcy, will describe their projects during a joint conference Oct. 12 and 13 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Marcy’s grant ‑ $200,000 for two years – will also pay for time on the enormous Keck telescopes in Hawaii to take spectra  of 1,000 planet-hosting stars in search of laser emissions from advanced civilizations,

Bousso, a professor of physics, is known for his proposal with Joseph Polchinski, a UC Berkeley Ph.D. now at UC Santa Barbara, that string theory implies that the universe is comprised of possibly an infinite number of multiverses, each with its own physical characteristics but operating under the same laws of physics. Though we are unlikely to be able to visit them or even see them with the largest telescopes – light hasn’t had time to travel that far since the universe began – he is optimistic that it’s possible to find predictions of the hypothesis that can be tested. His two-year, $125,000 grant will help him explore the implications of his hypothesis.

“People were initially skeptical of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, but now, decades later, your GPS runs on it and it has led to incredibly profound questions in physics, such as how the universe began and what happens inside a black hole,” Bousso said. “We are just at the early stages of this multiverse theory, but it is a very serious, plausible proposition that we have to take seriously and test – and try to shoot down as hard as we can.”

The NASA’s Kepler mission image at the top of the page illustrates two newly discovered planetary systems that include super-Earth-size planets in the “habitable zone”, the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water.The Kepler-62 system has five planets. Four of these planets are so-called super-Earths, larger than our own planet, but smaller than even the smallest ice giant planet in our Solar System. These new super-Earths have radii of 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, and 1.9 times that of Earth. One of the five was a roughly Mars-sized planet, half the size of Earth. Two of the newly discovered planets orbit a star smaller and cooler than the sun. Kepler-62f is only 40% larger than Earth, making it the exoplanet closest to the size of our planet known in the habitable zone of another star. Kepler-62f is likely to have a rocky composition. Kepler-62e, orbits on the inner edge of the habitable zone and is roughly 60% larger than Earth. The third planet, Kepler-69c, is 70% larger than the size of Earth.

 The Daily Galaxy via


I wish they would spend a fraction of the grant money studying UFO's.

These are fascinating goals to be sure, though I suspect that Dr. Marcy's efforts will be in vain.

For one thing, anything based on light just isn't likely to have much practical use at interstellar distances. A laser system between Earth and one of the planets in the Gliese 581 system would take over 20 years each direction! Communication is most likely to come through couriers using Alcubierre drives, at least until some method using quantum entanglement can be devised (though that may actually come first). Those would be (respectively) immensely difficult and impossible to detect from the outside.

Also, as I've stated before, I strongly suspect that we are the only sapient species and civilization in the Milky Way. The nearest likely places we'll find another are the Andromeda and Triangulum Galaxies.

Dr. Bousso's efforts, on the other hand, may provide some interesting results -- and at least one possibility may bypass my above concerns. Other universes, as he notes, may have different physical properties, and I learned not long ago (after much wondering) that one of the properties that can change is the speed of light. Imagine, for example, a universe where light travels 1000 times faster than in ours; that would cut the time to communicate with Gliese 581 to a little over a week. That's still not fast enough for a real-time conversation, but it could work for simple two-way news and data transmissions. And the actual limit in some universes may be even higher than that.

I think that if we ever get to the stars we will find abundant life, but as Mr. Greenwade has pointed out, sentient, tool making life may be another matter.

At 100,000 light years in diameter this galaxy is a massive place. Perhaps, within 100 light years of Earth there are 3500+ stars. Don’t know how many of these Kepler has confirmed with planets in that area. But if there other sentient, tool making species they are either behind us in technology, masking their RF radiation from discovery or using a communications technique that does not broadcast in the RF frequencies. We have been sending radio waves into the unknown with complete abandon since the 1890’s without receiving an overt answer.

Based on the history of this planet the most technologically advanced species with decimate the lesser. The will to survive and prosper is powerful. Great if you are at the apex, not much if you a few levels down. I think we will find more Klingons than Vulcans.

If technologically advanced civilizations exist in the galaxy and the universe, i hardly doubt that they would use laser technology as a means of communications. If i was sending a message to a person 14 light years away; it would take it 14 years to get there. It would take 28 years to get a response, and it would take 56 years for me to reply. I would have to be 5 when i placed a call, and the recipient would be 19 when she (he) received it. I would get the return response at the age of 34, and would get my response at the age of 48. The dialog,if you chose to call it such, would take a life time to do and most likely we would have long forgot about what we were talking about at the age of 5. Necessity is the mother of invention and I think that they would come up with a means of communicating that is less time consuming. Talking to someone is supposed to be instantaneous and not done in pain and agony.

Hello is John Steward home, fourteen years later, I am sorry but you have the wrong number.

What would the ICC (Intergalactic Communications Commission) charge for a long distance call that would take 58 years. At a penny a minute; how much would a phone call be for over one light year?

Is humanity the crown of creation? If we are the best you can get; then we should check our egos at the door cause we really act more like the Flintstones than the Klingon's; forget about being on par with the Vulcan's. We land on the moon and land a few probes on Mars and we think were hot shit, but it takes us over 35 years to get out of our own solar system; and we still are waiting to do that.

Eventually humans will finally find out that we are not alone in this universe, when that time comes, will religion become irrelevant?

If there is an intelligent civilization on the other side of our own galaxy... at 100, 000 light years in diameter, they could be 40,000 to 50,000 years ahead of us in technology and we would still not have recieved their very first radio transmissions! The fact we have been listening for a little over 100 years is a joke on this scale and the fact we have not heard anything is hardly surprising.

A small point but use of the verb 'hunt' in the first paragraph is hardly a flying start to this endeavour, is it?

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