Thanks for joining us for today's Reddit AMA on technosignatures! We're signing off, but you can learn more about our search at https://go.nasa.gov/2Dzgz2J

Is there life out there, beyond the edge of our solar system? Are we alone? People from all walks of life have pondered those questions. For decades, NASA has lead the charge in finding out. Astrobiologists—scientists who study how life could live on other planets—search for clues in acidic lakes, deep under ice, or at searing hot hydrothermal vents in the ocean. They also think about what signs of life could look like on other worlds, including planets in our own solar system and exoplanets, which are planets orbiting stars outside our solar system. These signs are called “biosignatures,” and include things like certain types of molecules or traces left in a rock.

At the same time, other scientists have pioneered a different kind of search for life. These scientists look for signs of intelligent life who might be trying to reach out to others in the galaxy with radio or laser transmissions. These signs are called “technosignatures.” Other types of technosignatures include evidence of pollutants in an exoplanet atmosphere or signs of an extraterrestrial structure around an exoplanet or star.

We’re a group of scientists who study astrobiology, exoplanets (including potentially habitable ones!) and potential technosignatures, and we’re here to answer your questions about this exciting field! We’ll be online starting at 1:00 p.m. EDT and we will sign our answers with our names or initials. Ask Us Anything!

  • Natalie Batalha, astrophysicist at NASA’s Ames Research Center and project scientist for the Kepler Mission
  • David Kipping, Columbia University’s Department of Astronomy
  • Andrew Siemion, Director of Berkeley SETI Research Center
  • Jason Wright, Associate Professor in Penn State’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • David Grinspoon, Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute
  • Shelley Wright, Professor at University California, San Diego

Proof: https://twitter.com/NASA/status/1044780351384473600

Comments: 221 • Responses: 63  • Date: 

ConradDanger52 karma

Found anything yet?

nasa23 karma

No. But we are trying! This NASA technosignature workshop (https://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/technosignatures2018/) has been wonderful to hear all the great work on these efforts. - S. Wright (UCSD)

timberwolf01226 karma

More over if you did would you contact it? There are some risks associated with that

nasa7 karma

There are no plans to attempt communication - our technosignature searches are looking and listening. - Andrew Siemion

kaderwader28 karma

How hard is it looking for something that technically doesn't exist yet, where do you start? What is a milestone to this sort of research?

nasa37 karma

Great question, it is indeed very difficult to imagine the range of technologies that advanced civilizations may use! One approach is to take existing technologies or emerging technology trends, extrapolate into the future and then predict what that signature would look like in our data - which is by definition a highly anthropocentric approach. Another, which I personally prefer, is simply to look for the weirdest wackiest stuff in your data that you know can't happen naturally (or least within our current understanding). The weird stuff often reveals other interesting physics along the way too. - David Kipping

bstylepro115 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! Say you found something definitive... do you have a protocol for communicating that information? And if so, what is it? In other words, what would be the likely way the general public would be informed if technosignatures were found?

nasa18 karma

Yes, there is a protocol that is agreed upon, at least for radio SETI. The basic idea is - first communicate with other observatories who can confirm the finding. Once it is confirmed as a credible signal, then it will be communicated widely and openly. A more detailed description of the protocol can be found here. https://www.seti.org/protocols-eti-signal-detection - DG

Slav_Shit15 karma

What do you think of the Boyajian star or the Przybylski star? Could these be signs of life? Are there better candidates out there for signs of intelligent life?

nasa30 karma

Both of those are great examples of anomalies that got people thinking about the possibility of technosignatures as an explanation.

Work by Eva Bodman recently showed that whatever is causing Boyajian's star to dim doesn't look like it's a solid object like a megastructure. We just saw a great talk by David Kipping here at the NASA Technosignatures Workshop who came to a similar conclusion from a completely different angle, so we no longer have reason to expect technosignatures there.

Przybylski's star has a very strange set of elements in its atmosphere, and some have pointed out that they appear to be some there that can only be produced artificially. The spectrum of the star is so complicated, though, it's hard to really know what we're looking at there. I wrote about the system here.

—Jason Wright (JTW)

Bill_the_Puma12 karma

What's the consensus on the WOW! Signal?

nasa11 karma

It is generally regarded as a credible but non-confirmed detection of a possible ET signal. The problem is that in order to be regarded as a confirmed detection the observation needs to be repeated. Many groups have searched the same place on the sky and have never found a repeat observation. That doesn't rule out that it was a temporary transmission, or leaked signal, but it cannot be regarded as a confirmed signal or solid evidence of ET. The fact is there may be transient observations that are real but not definitive and the WOW! signal may fall in that category. - DG

ApocalypseAce9 karma

What are your thoughts on the theory that a Type III civilization is in the Bootes Void?

nasa18 karma

I wasn't familiar with that particular hypothesis. One problem with it is that if there is "missing" starlight in a galaxy because it is being harvested for some purpose, conservation of energy requires that it ultimately be re-emitted in the infrared, so the lack of a bright infrared signature in the Boötes Void is a strike against that hypothesis.

Such voids are expected from our best theories of how galaxies formed, so there's no reason to point to technosignatures here. It's probably just empty. — JTW

westwd8 karma

What is the percentage likelihood that life on earth began on Mars and was ejected in some way, ending up on Earth?

nasa16 karma

It is difficult to assign a specific percentage to this, but it is regarded as a real possibility. We know that meteorites have been exchanged between the planets, and we know that the transfer rates were much higher in the first billion years of solar system evolution when the planets were young and when both Mars and Venus are believed to have had surface conditions conducive to life. Further, there is evidence that suggests that microbes could survive an interplanetary journey hitchhiking inside of meteorites. So, given all that, it is plausible that life formed on either Mars, Venus or Earth and was naturally transferred between them. So, it is not implausible that our earliest ancestors were Martians or Venusians! -- David Grinspoon

RasaKh7 karma

Where (as in which galaxy etc) are you looking for these technosignatures? And why there?

nasa12 karma

Different scientists employ different strategies. Most of the searches for technosignatures done so far have focussed on nearby stars (within a few hundred light years). More recently nearby galaxies (within several million light years) and surveys of the Milky Way galactic plane have been added to our target lists. Some experiments are surveying the entire viewable sky. We also frequently observe "astronomical anomalies," like KIC 8462852 (Tabby's Star), FRB 121102 (the repeating fast radio burst) and Oumuamua (the first detected interstellar object to visit our solar system). - Andrew Siemion

Tibal6 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA ! Would finding bacteria somewhere else in the universe increase our probability finding more advanced lifeform?

nasa15 karma

Yes, many of us believe it would. One of the unknowns is the probability of an origin of life. If we find bacteria it implies life is widespread, which definitely increases the probability of finding "advanced" life. - DG

nasa8 karma

Definitely. Life starts out simple, and evolves increased complexity, so you have to have simple life in order to eventually get technosignatures. All other things being equal, the more simple life in the universe, the more chances there are for life to evolve complexity, and eventually develop technology we could detect. - Andrew Siemion

garfieldkittycat6 karma

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve come across so far?

nasa4 karma

That's such a broad question it's difficult to frame! In terms of technosignatures, Boyajian's star has probably garnered the greatest recent excitement upon it's original discovery although we now understand that the cause of the observed anomalies is most likely dust rather than an alien megastructure. The infamous "Wow Signal" is another good example but no repeatability was ever recorded despite numerous efforts. David Kipping

dgk7805 karma

What roles do shadows or other light phenomena play in the search for technosignatures?

nasa8 karma

Looking for the shadows of an object is really the core of the transit method. When we look for planets using this method, we seek the decrease in brightness caused by a planet passing in front of a star. In other words, it's the planet's shadow. In the same way, we can also look for strange structures using this method by virtue of the shadow they cast. - David Kipping

AstroManishKr4 karma

Why is Jupiter’s icy moon Europa considered by many to be the most likely place in the Solar System to find life?

nasa8 karma

For life as we know it on Earth, water is essential for cellular function and biochemical reactions. We therefore look for locations of water on other solar system bodies. Europa is a very nice candidate since we it has a substantial subsurface ocean - two times the volume of Earth’s ocean! The surface of Europa is covered with thick ~100km brittle frozen surface, but underneath there exists a large subsurface ocean. Scientists are very curious about primitive life that may exist there and understanding its history. - S. Wright.

8andahalfby114 karma

There is currently lots of talk going around the Astronomy community about life developing in oceans on ice worlds like Europa or Enceladus. Ice has traditionally been a barrier to wireless electromagnetic forms of communication. Do you imagine that a civilization from an Ice world must dig past the ice barrier to be findable, or are there communication methods that you look for that even an ice-locked civilization could use?

nasa9 karma

There is a recent paper about this, suggesting the possibility that in the extreme it may be that *most* life and most civilizations appear within ice worlds and that is why we haven't seen them. Certainly an intriguing possibility! Here's an article from Science Magazine about this: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/10/why-haven-t-we-had-alien-contact-blame-icy-ocean-worlds

-- David Grinspoon

jebkerbal4 karma

Could you describe what sorts of tools you're using, and how effective you think they are at finding positive results?

nasa6 karma

The majority of technosignature measurements use astronomical telescopes, like radio and optical telescopes, and apply unique analysis techniques to find a signal that looks anomalous or artificial. Historically much of the technosignature and SETI observations were explored at radio wavelengths (i.e., Arecibo or Green Bank Telescope), but today technosignatures searches have been expanded to other wavelengths of light, like visible and infrared. Each experiment is carefully designed to find a particular type of signal, but the parameter of phase to search for life very large and we are still learning how to optimize our search techniques. - S. Wright

OddPreference4 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA!

Are there any ways a citizen scientist can help with this project? If a technosignature was to be discovered, what would come next? What is something you all would like to see happen that could aid in your search?

nasa3 karma

Here at the NASA Technosignatures Workshop we just heard some great talks about how technosignatures might manifest themselves in unusual ways that we did not expect, and how citizen scientists can help us find "weird" things we weren't expecting. Indeed, this is how "Tabby's Star" was discovered: the NASA data pipeline designed to find planets orbiting other stars in data from the Kepler observatory missed the huge, strange light curve of that star, but citizen scientists at planethunters.org looking for planets missed by the pipeline flagged it.

What came next in that case is that lots of astronomers looked at it to see what was going on. Work by Eva Bodman recently showed that whatever is causing Boyajian's star to dim doesn't look like it's a solid object like a megastructure. We just saw a great talk by David Kipping here at the NASA Technosignatures Workshop who came to a similar conclusion from a completely different angle, so we no longer have reason to expect technosignatures there.

We would love to see more astronomers get involved with the search for technosignatures and to look at the huge amount of astronomical data we have in new ways, looking for these kinds of anomalies.

—JTW

Ancalites4 karma

How do you feel about the implications of our own achievements regarding our ability to detect and probe exoplanets and potentially life-bearing worlds? It seems like the use of something like spectroscopy to study the atmospheres of rocky exoplanets is not so far off, and so you can just extrapolate about the amazing amount of data we could have about Earth-like worlds over the coming centuries. Wouldn't this highly suggest then, if there ever were advanced civilizations in the galaxy over the last few billion years, that Earth should have been 'catalogued' many times over? And yet we see no obvious evidence that it's been visited, or that beacons have been built to catch our attention or whatever. The pessimist in me thinks this is a pretty clear sign that there probably haven't been any advanced civilizations around during the time that Earth has been a life-bearing world with all the biomarkers in the atmosphere that would signal this fact to the galaxy. What are your thoughts?

nasa9 karma

Certainly one can play the game of imagining an advanced civilization detecting us remotely but trying to guess what their reaction to our presence would be is very difficult. Maybe they'd immediately try and say hello, or maybe they would think of us much like we consider an ant on the sidewalk. We can't presume anything about their behavior and thus the absence of evidence should not interpreted as evidence of absence. David Kipping

westwd4 karma

What is a better path? Looking for microbial life in our solar system or looking for signs of advanced life outside of our solar system? (assuming we won't be able to identify microbial life outside our solar system)

nasa7 karma

I think those two experiments are asking different but related questions. One is asking about abiogenesis rates, or even panspermia, the other is asking about the evolution of life into "advanced" states. So both are very valuable and ultimately we're data starved and information from either would be extremely welcome. David Kipping

LanceConstableCarrot3 karma

Do you feel that the Drake Equation is overly optimistic? It uses, for example, "2 Earth-like planets per system", but seems to have based many figures on ideal conditions, or even simply a sample size of single star system.

nasa14 karma

The Drake Equation is simply a formulation of the relevant factors which are expected to impact the prevalence of technologically active civilizations in the galaxy. What numbers you plug into that equation is a different matter. For some of the terms, like the star formation rate and planet occurrence rate, we have strong measurements. For others, like the lifetime of a civilization, we have absolutely no idea what to plug in. The Drake Equation was never suppose to be a formal way of computing the number of civilizations but rather a way of framing the different scientific questions we need to tackling to eventually figure out the true answer. - David Kipping

Write_What_I_Like3 karma

What is your favorite theoretical resolution to the Fermi Paradox?

nasa8 karma

One that I find intriguing is the Sustainability Solution:

(Haqq-Misra and Baum, 2009): “The absence of ETI observations can be explained by the possibility that exponential or other faster-growth is not a sustainable development pattern for intelligent civilizations.”

-- David Grinspoon

shelldon013 karma

What is the next step in case we (or you) find something?

nasa3 karma

There is a protocol that is agreed upon, at least for radio SETI. The basic idea is - first communicate with other observatories who can confirm the finding. Once it is confirmed as a credible signal, then it will be communicated widely and openly. A more detailed description of the protocol can be found here.

https://www.seti.org/protocols-eti-signal-detection

- DG

abstlouis963 karma

Have you discussed amongst each other about the potential of contacting potentially hostile intelligent life and risk putting the Earth in danger?

nasa6 karma

No, that's not a topic of this NASA workshop we are attending, though it has been much discussed at other meetings. The Technosignatures Workshop we are at is purely about passive "looking" and "listening" for technosignatures.—JTW

its_anagram3 karma

What is your favorite movie depicting aliens? Any movie stand out as very a likely or unlikely encounter with intelligent life?

nasa16 karma

Has to be Contact! A great book, a great movie, and the lead character is partly based on a real (and really awesome!) SETI Scientist: Jill Tarter. Also a fairly accurate depiction, up until the part where they decode the signal ;)

- Andrew Siemion

BigTex77RR3 karma

Do any particular areas in space present themselves as natural starting points for this type of observation?

nasa4 karma

There are many different ideas! Nearby stars are a natural starting point, as well as stars known to host exoplanets that have similar properties to the Earth. The center of the galaxy might be a natural place to put a beacon, and that line of sight also has the greatest density of stars within the Milky Way. - Andrew Siemion

_Deep_Thought2 karma

Hey gang,

Thanks for sharing your time and expertise with us!

What evidence is there for and against FRBs (fast radio bursts) being a sign of ETI?

What are your opinions on what’s causing the strange variation in light output from Tabby's Star?

Are there any up and coming techniques, technologies or different ways of thinking about this issue, which any of you expect to be game-changers in the SETI?

nasa5 karma

Fast radio bursts are indeed fascinating, and we are just beginning to understand them. There are a few theories about their origins, and recent work by folks at the Breakthrough Listen initiative and other astronomers have revealed important clues about them, suggesting that at least some of them are due to rapidly spinning neutron stars.

Avi Loeb has suggested that the signature looks a lot like what one might see from some kinds of spacecraft propulsion systems, which has people wondering about that angle, as well.

As for Tabby's Star, work by Eva Bodman recently showed that whatever is causing Boyajian's star to dim doesn't look like it's a solid object like a megastructure. We just saw a great talk by David Kipping here at the NASA Technosignatures Workshop who came to a similar conclusion from a completely different angle, so we no longer have reason to expect technosignatures there.

Game changers for SETI include the massive data sets that will soon be enabled by facilities such as the MeerKAT telescope array, LSST, and the revolution in data science in Silicon Valley that allows us to sift through these data sets in search of technosignatures. It's an exciting time to be working on this!

—JTW

cntry82txn2 karma

What is being done, or what could be done to locate possible extraterrestrial artifacts in our own solar system? Possible probes in the asteroid belt or Oort Cloud, etc.

nasa6 karma

There has been some discussion of this here at the workshop. We can look - for example - for unusual light-curves in objects in the asteroid belt, or elsewhere, which might indicate they are of artificial origin. We can also survey surface imagery of Mars, the Moon and elsewhere, remaining alert for possible artifacts. Very preliminary efforts along these lines have been made, and there has been some discussion here about completeness of various surveys. The fact is, most of the solar system is unexplored for such artifacts. The good news is that there is a large overlap in the observations we would make simply to do good solar system science and the kinds of observations that could identify such artifacts. We have to be alert to anomalies as we explore (but also highly skeptical of claims - there is of course a vast pseudoscience literature claiming to identify artifacts on Mars...) - David Grinspoon

TransPlanetInjection2 karma

Are radio waves capable of traveling that many light years. Won't they just fade away?

nasa3 karma

Interstellar (and intergalactic) space is basically transparent to the radio part of the electromagnetic spectrum. In fact, we can detect radiation all the way to the birth of our universe (the cosmic microwave background). It is true that the strength of the radiation falls of as 1/distance^2, which is why we need big telescopes to detect very weak signals.

- Andrew Siemion

TransPlanetInjection2 karma

Won't the far away signals fade into the CMB and become indistinguishable?

nasa5 karma

No, as long as the signal is powerful enough to be detected by our telescopes. - Andrew Siemion

mojomanna2 karma

What would be considered a Technosignature?

nasa1 karma

In a basic sense, it is evidence of extraterrestrial technology. How exactly to identify *that* is of course the subject of much discussion at this meeting. Some possibilities are radio signals, finding artifacts in our own solar system, or atmospheric sign of technological activities on other planets. - DG

erioLift2 karma

What technology are you using, and What would the lunar base project mean for your research?

nasa6 karma

We're closing up but a quick response - a far side lunar base would be perfect for radio astronomy because there is no terrestrial interference. David Kipping

AnonymousPirate2 karma

How can I join?

nasa5 karma

There are lots of ways to get involved in the search for technosignatures! At UC Berkeley we have an internship program for undergraduate students (https://seti.berkeley.edu/Internship.html) . You can also help us analyze our data with the [email protected] program (http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/sah_about.php) or help us classify signals through an upcoming partnership with Zooniverse (stay tuned!). - Andrew Siemion

calelackey2 karma

Andrew Siemion- Hello, Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Were you ever able to contact Dr. Kardashev about using the RadioAstron Space Telescope for VLF Observations of 'Oumuamua? I was hoping to connect the two of you.

nasa3 karma

Thank you for the question. No, we have not been in contact, but there have been some preliminary discussions with others about the utility of RadioAstron for technosignature searches. This would be great! - Andrew Siemion

AstroManishKr2 karma

What is the real meaning of life? In space!

nasa15 karma

42

westwd2 karma

What progress has been made in the investigation of KIC 8642852? Are there other leading candidates for advanced life (however unlikely even the leaders are)?

nasa3 karma

Work by Eva Bodman recently showed that whatever is causing Boyajian's star to dim doesn't look like it's a solid object like a megastructure. We just saw a great talk by David Kipping here at the NASA Technosignatures Workshop who came to a similar conclusion from a completely different angle, so we no longer have reason to expect technosignatures there.

-Jason Wright (JTW)

TheDiscordedSnarl1 karma

Fermi was right... where is everyone? You'd think by now we'd have people across the galaxy communicating with each other, or at least stray phaser fire flying through space until it impacts something... what's the protocol if you rule out all other forms of "data corruption" (aka other reasons for your readings or a technosignature to exist, such as refracted sunlight / natural pollutants in the area, etc) and you wind up with an actual "Wow!" signal?

nasa1 karma

Our most important task when we find something interesting is to follow up on it with additional observations, using as many different types of telescopes as possible. Through that process, we share our data with our colleagues, and would subject the discovery to external review. Beyond that, the International Academy of Astronautics Permanent Committee on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence as adopted a set of protocols to be followed following detection: https://iaaseti.org/en/declaration-principles-concerning-activities-following-detection/ - Andrew Siemion

sarcastic_patriot1 karma

Why is it assumed that oxygen is needed for life? If any beings out there breathe like we do, couldn’t they live off of helium or another gas?

It seems unlikely that an organism on a different planet would need the same things to live as we do.

nasa2 karma

The presence (and amount) of oxygen in an atmosphere is an important part of searches for biosignatures, but searches for technosignatures do not make any assumptions about the biology of the life that created the technology. It could be life with a chemistry similar to ours, or something very different that we haven't thought of. The only requirement is the life produces a technology that has some detectable signature, like a radio or laser signal. - Andrew Siemion

mojomanna1 karma

Would absorptive spectroscopy show something that would not occur naturally? I have read that organic compounds have been observed like this but is there something else that may be a Technosignature?

nasa3 karma

Yes that is one possibility that we have been discussing. We could observe the spectra of exoplanets and look for atmospheric components that do not seem "natural". Some possibilities for this include chloroflourocarbons and other infrared absorbers that do not seem to occur due to natural processes but could potentially be used to artificially engineer a planet's climate. DG

Atthecadence1 karma

I’m a big fan of the film Interstellar which was based off of actual science with an understandable element of sci-fi. In the quest for life on exoplanets, do you also look for exoplanets to serve as potential homes sustainable for human life, too?

nasa2 karma

I enjoyed Interstellar a lot too!

When we look for planets around the other stars we are often interested in whether they might be "habitable", but we are generally not looking for future homes for humans, since a trip to those planets would take inconceivably long times (hundreds of thousands of years with current technology). Instead, we are looking for planets where we think we might find biosignatures—signs of the byproducts of metabolism such as methane and oxygen, for instance.—JTW

GooseyGoose1 karma

What/where are some of your favorite areas to search?

Thanks for all you do!

nasa5 karma

My favorite ways to search include looking for large artifacts ("megastructures") in orbit around other stars as they pass between us and the star, or looking for the heat of industry at infrared wavelengths. —JTW

PM4HonestOpinions1 karma

If ET really needed to phone home, who do you think he would call?

But for real..... found anything good?

nasa3 karma

No technosignatures yet - but we did make some cool detections of the repeating fast radio burst FRB 121102 using machine learning! (http://seti.berkeley.edu/frb-machine/) - Andrew Siemion

AstroManishKr1 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA!

Why Start Looking at Technosignatures Now?

nasa4 karma

People have wondered about the existence of life elsewhere since the dawn of civilization. When early astronomers looked at Mars they thought they saw canals - one of the first technosignatures claimed! So the field is not exactly new but ever improving astronomical capabilities are enabling us to make greater progress than ever before. David Kipping

nasa4 karma

Astronomers have been seriously looking for technosignatures for decades, at least as far back as Percival Lowell tracking the motion of water through canals on Mars in the 19th century. Things really got underway in the late 1950's with serious radio SETI, and that work continued and blossomed in the 1980's with the NASA SETI programs. Things moved mostly overseas and US-based privately funded efforts after the NASA HRMS program was cancelled in 1993, and recently there has been a resurgence of activity corresponding with the Breakthrough Listen Initiative. —JTW

MrCarterTwo1 karma

Does telescopes in Chile help for this research? I mean, how can you find Life if it's too small?

nasa2 karma

Many of the largest optical and radio telescopes in the world are in Chile, and in addition to those, other telescopes around the world an in space can be brought to bear on the problem.

Looking for microbial life directly is really only practical in the Solar System, and indeed that is a goal of many missions to Mars and Europa. In other contexts we look for biosignatures, or byproducts of metabolism like atmospheric gases (methane and oxygen for instance) which can in principle be detected at interstellar distances. Many of us in this AMA also look for technosignatures such as radio transmissions.—JTW

bonerjam031 karma

How do I get a job in this field? I have an undergraduate degree in applied math.

nasa2 karma

An open-mind, curiosity and hard-work! The "field" isn't really a single field but a confluence and overlap of many - astrobiology, astronomy, anthropology, communications engineering, for example. Typically a student interested in any of these fields would pursue graduate studies in their selected discipline. Some of us thought about SETI during our PhD's but many of us fell into the topic later in our careers. Good luck! David Kipping

nasa2 karma

At UC Berkeley we have an internship program for undergraduate students (https://seti.berkeley.edu/Internship.html) . Most researchers in the technosignature field have PhDs in Astronomy, Physics, Computer Science or a related field, but many social scientists participate as well. - Andrew Siemion

Diplomatt_1 karma

ALL: What was the moment, experience, teacher that led you to become a scientist who studies astrobiology, exoplanets? Something that after that point you knew what you wanted to do. I wouldn't think it is something you just fall into.

nasa6 karma

I was influenced greatly by Carl Sagan who even back in the 1970s before Astrobiology was a widely accepted field, used to talk about "exobiology" and spoke seriously and convincingly about the possible existence of ET life and ways to search for it as a part of our exploration of the solar system. - David Grinspoon

nasa5 karma

Science fiction was an integral part of my childhood that instilled the burning of question of “Are we alone”? Reading Sagan's book and seeing the movie Contact was a definitive moment in my life when I realized that being an astrophysicist was a career path that could explore this topic. Later at university I saw a poster ad for the first NASA Astrobiology conference to be held at NASA Aimes. I skipped my classes and attended this conference, and was fortunate enough to meet technosignature scientists that later turned into fantastic mentors. - S. Wright

altheist1 karma

When it looks like there's signs of intelligent life, are there plans to try to communicate with it? If so, how would you go about doing it?

nasa4 karma

There are no plans to attempt communication. Our technosignature searches are "listening" and "looking." - Andrew Siemion

AstroManishKr1 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA!

Hi, what advice would you give the new generation of teens who want to get into your field of work?

nasa2 karma

The field of technosignatures is multi-discplenary (astronomers, physicists, geologists, anthropologist). My suggestion would do some reading on the field and find what most intrigues your interest, then look into what is needed in pursuing bacherlor’s and higher degree program for that field. You may also look into what type of research is happening in your area at nearby institutions or universities, and see if you can attend some public talks and try to speak to other scientists. There’s no ONE single, right path to becoming a scientists, and that is particularly true for a technosignatures scientist. - S. Wright

nasa2 karma

Be open-mind, curious and work hard! The "field" isn't really a single field but a confluence and overlap of many - astrobiology, astronomy, anthropology, communications engineering, for example. Typically a student interested in any of these fields would pursue math and technical classes in high school and graduate studies in their selected discipline. Some of us thought about SETI during our PhD's but many of us fell into the topic later in our careers. Good luck! David Kipping

RfgtGuru1 karma

Found any yet?

nasa1 karma

Not yet! David Kipping

nasa1 karma

Not yet! - Andrew Siemion

AstroManishKr1 karma

Hi, there!

What if there were new, revolutionary ways to explore planets, moons, asteroids and even our own Earth?

nasa3 karma

That would be great! David Kipping

AstroManishKr1 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA!

If life began on Earth, could it be created elsewhere?

nasa4 karma

We normally say "emerged" rather than "created" because our scientific understanding of life is that it arose naturally and spontaneously on the early Earth. If life emerged here, then clearly that demonstrates that it is at the minimum physically plausible. The rate at which it happens could be anything from 1 in 10^100 to 1 in a few. We have absolutely no idea and that's why looking for life elsewhere is such a fascinating scientific quest! David Kipping

nasa2 karma

That's exactly the question we're trying to answer! We know that all the basic ingredients necessary for life as we know it, rocky planets, water and organic molecules, exist in abundance throughout the universe. However, we have no idea what the probability is that life will emerge from those ingredients. Searches for life beyond the Earth is the best way to answer that question, and looking for technosignatures is one way to measure the prevalence of life. - Andrew Siemion

westwd1 karma

What's your most interesting project you are currently working on?

nasa2 karma

Hopefully everyone will answer, but the most interesting project I'm working on is called "Breakthrough Listen" (http://breakthroughinitiatives.org) - a comprehensive search for technosignatures using a variety of radio and optical telescopes. Stay tuned next week for an announcement about a new telescope being added to the fold! - Andrew Siemion

SgtTryhard1 karma

Which galaxies/star clusters/etc do you observe the most?

nasa1 karma

Generally we try to observe as much of the sky as possible, with our best data coming from the brightest objects. Many surveys (including TESS for example) avoid the galactic plane because of the extreme crowing that makes spatially resolving sources very challenging. All confirmed exoplanets have been discovered within the Milky Way galaxy but it is possible we may detect planets further ashore in the future. David Kipping

AstroManishKr0 karma

These alien technosignatures could be the key to solving the age-old question of “are we alone in the universe?”.

nasa3 karma

That is the premise under which we operate. David Kipping