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Detecting Extraterrestrial Technologies and Life

Detecting Extraterrestrial Technologies & Life

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting
Saturday, 15 February 2020, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. PST
Washington State Convention Center (Seattle) Room 6A

The extraordinary progress of the past two decades in the astronomical discovery and characterization of planets orbiting stars other than the Sun (exoplanets) is motivating renewed investment in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence at NASA, in the private sector, and among philanthropic organizations. To address the exciting possibility that extraterrestrial life may exist, scientists are developing capabilities to search for evidence of biological processes and technology activities that would indicate not only the existence of life but advanced intelligence. This symposium will describe new results and progress in the design, deployment, and performance of state-of-the-art techniques to detect signatures of life (biosignatures) and technology (technosignatures) and support the inference that intelligent extraterrestrial technologists existed. This symposium will also examine how technosignature research and development is rapidly advancing and influencing the astronomy community's exoplanet research strategies and tactics.

Organizer: Dr. Anthony J. Beasley (National Radio Astronomy Observatory)

The session will highlight these topics with the following invited presentations: 

  • Hunting for Technosignatures | Dr. Andrew Siemion (Berkeley SETI Research Center)
    This presentation will discuss recent and prospective searches for signs of engineering beyond Earth that might be inferred via remote sensing of signatures of technology (technosignatures), including radio transmissions to laser emissions, structures orbiting other stars and more. The recent recognition that Earth-size habitable planets are common has renewed interest in the search for extraterrestrial life at NASA, in the private sector, and among philanthropic organizations.
  • Extrasolar Terrestrial Planet Characterization and the Search for Life | Dr. Victoria Meadows (University of Washington) This presentation will describe how innovative computer models are being used to simulate the environments and spectra of plausible extrasolar terrestrial environments, to inform the search for habitable planets and life. These models will help space- and ground-based telescopes discriminate between habitable and uninhabitable exoplanets, and are key to the design and development of future NASA planet detection and characterization missions that will search for exoplanetary signs of life. 
  • When is the Evidence Sufficient to Claim the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life?  | Dr. Jill C. Tarter (Center for SETI Research) This presentation will describe the ongoing excitement about the search for life and extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), emphasizing the newest programs and technologies. What makes compelling biosignatures and technosignatures? Are there likely to be any smoking guns? If future discoveries are nuanced or contain many caveats, how do we prepare for public disclosure and education?