So far, we have been unsuccessful in our search for stellar or even galactic civilizations. Or any civilizations apart from humanity for that matter. But now, we could search for planetary civilizations thanks to infrared telescopes.
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Some love them, some hate them. The growing satellite arrays such as Starlink that is being built by SpaceX are among the most ambitious projects humanity has ever undergone. Starlink plans to release 12,000 communication micro-satellites and then 30,000 more. Just by May of 2021, there were already almost 1,500 Starlink satellites in orbit. It is hard and risky. But if they succeed this will be humanity’s first satellite mega-array. Something like that could be visible at great distances.
And that’s exactly the idea behind the study of Zaza Osmanov from the Free University of Tbilisi. He decided to focus on planetary civilization which you might know of as type I civilizations on the Kardashev scale. Such civilizations should be capable of using all the resources a planet has available. Just so you know, humanity currently is at roughly type 0.7.
Osmanov thinks that type I civilizations should be more than capable of having giant mega-arrays of satellites or orbital stations in orbit. He also thinks that building and running them requires a lot of energy and resources. That would mean a lot of waste energy must be released and this waste energy could be detected from Earth as it should create very specific infrared radiation.
What’s even better, our current most powerful infrared telescopes could be capable of detecting such radiation. Telescopes such as the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) from the VLT array. These could allow us to detect this radiation at a distance of up to 280 light-years. This might not sound like much but there are at least 1,000 stars similar to the Sun in this area of space. And if planetary civilizations are common, perhaps we can find them.
Our current search for alien civilizations was quite unsuccessful. But we mostly focused our search on type II and type III civilizations – stellar and galactic civilization. These civilizations should create structures that should be clearly visible from giant distances. But type I civilizations could be much more common and even more understandable to humanity. So, perhaps we can find at least them.
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