[SCIENCE] Signs of Aliens Mining Asteroids


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After 50 years of searching the heavens with radio telescopes to try to contact alien life, so far the attempts of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) scientists seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

So is there another way to try to find aliens in our galactic neighborhood? Some scientists suggest looking for signs of ETs mining asteroids.

Interesting concept, because it shouldn't be difficult to detect any outer space mining operations conducted by aliens, especially something that would kick up an unusual amount of dust in the process as they search for precious metals found in rocky asteroids.

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"The development of civilizations like ours into spacefaring, multi-planet entities requires significant raw materials to construct vehicles and habitats. Interplanetary debris, including asteroids and comets, may provide such a source of raw materials," write Duncan Forgan of the University of Edinburgh and Martin Elvis of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The two scientists have Link Removed - Invalid URL to be published in the International Journal of Astrobiology. "We present the hypothesis that extraterrestrial intelligences (ETIs) engaged in asteroid mining may be detectable from Earth."

They speculate that any alien mining efforts would result in specific effects that might be seen by Earth-based technology.

The first clue to a possible deep-space mining activity is that a chemical signature would result in the debris ring encircling a star. This debris "may be the leftovers from planet formation, and is expected to be common in planetary systems," Forgan and Elvis write.

Second, an alien mining operation would cause detectable changes in the sizes of objects in those debris discs. Forgan and Elvis believe that these would be big clues for finding extraterrestrials.

"If technological civilizations more advanced than ours exist in the galaxy ... and asteroid mining is a common activity which underpins their existence, then searching for signatures of targeted asteroid mining (or TAM) is an appropriate activity for SETI to undertake," the scientists suggest.

It should be pointed out that they also realize their theory isn't the last word in detecting ETs. It's possible that some of these asteroid debris changes, whether physical or chemical, could be caused by the simple natural act of asteroids bumping or colliding into each other.

"We cannot expect a conclusive detection of extraterrestrial intelligence by TAM -- what it can provide is a call to attention. Debris disc systems with unusual dust size distributions and locations ... provide astrobiologists with candidates for further study," the scientists write.

The idea of going to asteroids to find usable materials is one that NASA is already implementing. The space agency is looking to send the first manned mission to a nearby asteroid in 2025.

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