NASA Is Hunting Alien Civilizations by Looking for Their Pollution

NASA is actively searching exoplanets for signs of “industrialized civilization.”

Garbage Day

A team of NASA scientists is taking a clever approach to hunting for alien life: scanning exoplanets for signs of air pollution.

Just as pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are an indication of human activity below, a team of NASA researchers are now looking for pollutants on other, potentially-habitable exoplanets as a new alien technosignature, meaning a sign of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization. Their study, posted online and accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal, is the first to add nitrogen dioxide as a potential technosignature — giving scientists a new tool in the search for life.

Sniff Test

The idea of sniffing out aliens based on their pollution isn’t a new one. But adding nitrogen dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels in power plants or vehicle engines, helps broaden the search.

“Therefore, observing [nitrogen dioxide] on a habitable planet could potentially indicate the presence of an industrialized civilization,” lead study author Ravi Kopparapu, a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a press release.

Natural Gas

The problem is that many worlds might have naturally-occurring nitrogen dioxide in their atmospheres, especially since it can be given off by volcanic activity. So part of the new study was finding a way to model the amount of nitrogen dioxide there should be on a given exoplanet.

“If we observe more [nitrogen dioxide] than our models suggest is plausible from non-industrial sources,” study coauthor and Goddard researcher Giada Arney said in the release, “then the rest of the [nitrogen dioxide] might be attributed to industrial activity.”

READ MORE: NASA Study: To Find an Extraterrestrial Civilization, Pollution Could Be the Solution [NASA]

More on technosignatures: NASA Funds Harvard Hunt for Alien “Technological Civilizations”

Latest articles

Essential workers should be prioritized for AstraZeneca vaccine, experts suggest

Essential workers who are more likely to contract and transmit COVID-19 should be prioritized for immunization with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine now that a...

Paris Hilton Opened Up About Being "Purposefully" Humiliated In A 2007 Interview With David Letterman After An Extremely Uncomfortable Clip Resurfaced

"I was just getting so uncomfortable and I was so upset. During the commercial breaks I'd look at him like, 'Please stop doing...

‘Green’ burials are slowly gaining ground among environmentalists

Despite “green” burials becoming increasingly available in North America, some older eco-conscious adults remain unaware of the option when planning for their deaths,...

SpaceX is ready to launch more astronauts with Crew-2 next month

SpaceX's second fully-crewed astronaut flight, Crew-2, is prepared for launch, mission team members said Monday (March 1) during a news briefing. Crew-2, which is...

Related articles

Leave a reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here