Pollution on other worlds may show advanced alien life


LIFE is messy. So to find aliens, why not look for their pollution? NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will look at starlight filtered through the atmospheres of Earth-sized planets for signs of life. Most plans involve hunting for highly reactive gases such as oxygen that need a living source to replenish them. But these methods might only hint at simple life such as microbes. Avi Loeb at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics thinks we could find advanced civilisations if we look instead for industrial pollution (arxiv.org/abs/1406.3025). His team calculates that JWST should be able to spot two kinds of CFCs, complex carbon-based gases used in solvents and aerosols. This article appeared in print under the headline “Polluted air may show clever aliens” More on these topics:
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