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July 16, 2013

Can Giant Telescopes Help Answer Fermi's Paradox?

Extraterrestrial Civilization

Search for Extraterrestrial Life
In a lecture earlier this year, Dr. Jeff Kuhn describes a new idea for completing a nearby extraterrestrial cosmic census and describe some of the large telescope technology that exists today to undertake it. Kuhn proposes looking for heat signatures will help us find extraterrestrial civilizations, or ETCs.

Where are the extrasterrestrial civilizations and do we have the technology to find them?

We now know that we're surrounded by habitable extrasolar planets. Even half a century ago, before we knew of any extrasolar planets, Enrico Fermi speculated that the absence of any "proof" for extraterrestrial civilization could be important new for life on Earth. This is now known as the "Fermi Paradox."

Today his query is even more compelling. In the video below, Dr. Jeff Kuhn describes a new idea for completing a nearby extraterrestrial cosmic census and describe some of the technology that exists today to undertake it.

Can Giant Telescopes Help Answer Fermi's Paradox?

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The detection of an extraterrestrial civilization (ETC), even without further communication, is important in many gnostic and practical aspects. For instance, one of the current burning issues for our civilization is surviving global climate changes because of increasing power generation.

Kuhn proposes that detecting more advanced civilizations will demonstrate a fundamental possibility that civilization can achieve a phase of sustainable global-scale power consumption.

For a half-century we have sought radio frequency evidence and, more recently, optical communications of ETCs. However, these approaches depend on finding alien transmissions, beam "leakage", or what could be called intentional electromagnetic signals from ETCs that are operating cosmic beacons.

Colossus Telescope Concept

The proposed Colossus telescope will employ a strategy for detecting an unintentional signal caused by alien planetary warming. Thanks to its large aperture and unique coronographic properties, it will be capable of detecting the thermodynamic signal from Earth-like ETC's within an interestingly large cosmic volume.

The outcome of such a dual wavelength, visible-IR, search will be largely independent of alien communication modes and will have quantifiable statistical completeness. Even a null result will help us understand the Fermi paradox, "why do we appear to be alone?"

Colossus Telescope Diagram

Detecting an ETC signal is possible with current technology but requires a telescope and sensitive detector that can measure the planet's thermal flux and its reflected optical light, while distinguishing these from the star's scattered light and the terrestrial thermal noise background. Glare from the central star comes from the terrestrial atmosphere's distorting effect on the optical wavefront and from diffraction due to telescope optics. Suppressing this noise requires highly accurate adaptive optics (AO) and a coronagraph system. These requirements are implemented in the Colossus design.

With the Colossus telescope, which Kuhn says can be built in five years with sufficient funding, we will be able to see advanced civilization heat pattern as can be seen in night lights on the Earth from space.

SOURCE  IfA Maui, The Colossus Corporation

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