A New-era in search for technologically advanced life in the Universe

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Speaker :  
Dr. Vishal Gajjar (University of California, Berkeley, USA)
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Abstract :

The recent surge in discoveries of extrasolar planets has reignited our fascination with the possibility of extraterrestrial life. It's now estimated that within our Milky Way galaxy alone, there could be billions of Earth-like planets, situated at just the right distance from their stars to host liquid water—a fundamental ingredient for life as we know it. This tantalizing prospect suggests that there may exist millions of celestial realms where the conditions are ripe for life to emerge and evolve. In response to these revelations, significant efforts are underway, employing cutting-edge tools like the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the forthcoming Large Ultraviolet Optical Infrared Surveyor (LUVOIR) to scrutinize the atmospheres of exoplanets in search of signs of biological activity, known as 'biosignatures.' However, interpreting such findings remains inherently ambiguous, exemplified by recent disputed claims of phosphine detection on Venus. Expanding upon biosignature searches, the quest for evidence of technologically advanced extraterrestrial life, termed 'technosignatures,' emerges as a natural progression. Given the plausible ubiquity of technological development, it's increasingly feasible that other intelligent civilizations have harnessed advanced technologies. Crucially, technosignatures have the potential to endure across vast interstellar distances, offering more lasting traces than conventional biosignatures.

In light of this thrilling prospect, a question takes center stage: How can we most effectively detect these elusive technosignatures? In this talk, I will explore a range of ongoing global initiatives designed to uncover traces of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations. These endeavors encompass the detection of signals associated with industrial activities, planetary-scale geoengineering projects, and even deliberate beacons intended for cosmic communication. As I delve into the various mediums of communication over the vast expanses of interstellar space, I will argue that electromagnetic waves, particularly radio waves, represent our most promising avenue for this monumental quest. Furthermore, I will outline two pioneering programs at the forefront of this research—the SETI Institute and the Breakthrough Listen initiative. These two entities, working in tandem, constitute one of the most comprehensive and ambitious efforts to seek out signs of life in the Universe. I will provide an in-depth examination of how these programs are collaborating to embark on some of the most profound and unprecedented searches for extraterrestrial life in the history of science.