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exoplanet viewed from the rocky surface of its moon, elements of this image furnished by NASA.

So What Alien Tech Should the New Telescopes Be Looking For?

As powerful new telescopes come on line, we will be able to look for chemical signatures of civilization, not just life

Today, powerful telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope search among the now 5000 confirmed exoplanets for biosignatures — chemical compounds like methane and nitrous oxide — that are typically produced by life forms. But what about technosignatures, evidence of an advanced civilization? These might be, for example byproducts of a nuclear fusion (tritium, for example) that is not associated with as nearby supernova. That’s on the agenda for the new telescopes coming down the line as well: In 2021, the National Academies of Sciences released their Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020, called Astro2020. They release one every ten years, and each survey outlines the critical challenges in astrophysics and astronomy for the next decade. Astro2020 contains several…