Nearby Alien Technosignatures

Listening for radio signals from alien technological civilisations narrows the search to only those civilisations that happen to be transmitting at the time (accounting for the speed of light) that we are listening. But the solar system has been around for more than four billion years, and many bodies such as the Moon and asteroids are little changed from the epoch of their formation. Might they preserve evidence of visitors from other stars or even a prior technological civilisation on Earth, where plate tectonics and erosion would have erased all evidence of its existence?

Here are two recent papers about evidence of prior technological civilisations in the solar system.

Prior Indigenous Technological Species

One of the primary open questions of astrobiology is whether there is extant or extinct life elsewhere the Solar System. Implicit in much of this work is that we are looking for microbial or, at best, unintelligent life, even though technological artifacts might be much easier to find. SETI work on searches for alien artifacts in the Solar System typically presumes that such artifacts would be of extrasolar origin, even though life is known to have existed in the Solar System, on Earth, for eons. But if a prior technological, perhaps spacefaring, species ever arose in the Solar System, it might have produced artifacts or other technosignatures that have survived to present day, meaning Solar System artifact SETI provides a potential path to resolving astrobiology’s question. Here, I discuss the origins and possible locations for technosignatures of such a prior indigenous technological species, which might have arisen on ancient Earth or another body, such as a pre-greenhouse Venus or a wet Mars. In the case of Venus, the arrival of its global greenhouse and potential resurfacing might have erased all evidence of its existence on the Venusian surface. In the case of Earth, erosion and, ultimately, plate tectonics may have erased most such evidence if the species lived Gyr ago. Remaining indigenous technosignatures might be expected to be extremely old, limiting the places they might still be found to beneath the surfaces of Mars and the Moon, or in the outer Solar System.

The Silurian Hypothesis: Would it be possible to detect an industrial civilization in the geological record?

If an industrial civilization had existed on Earth many millions of years prior to our own era, what traces would it have left and would they be detectable today? We summarize the likely geological fingerprint of the Anthropocene, and demonstrate that while clear, it will not differ greatly in many respects from other known events in the geological record. We then propose tests that could plausibly distinguish an industrial cause from an otherwise naturally occurring climate event.

Really near, up close and personal, a cube inside a sphere reminds me of Matt Visser’s “thin shell” wormhole portals in his book Lorentzian Wormholes.