Deciphering Alien Intentions: NASA’s Unique Approach to Hunting for Extraterrestrial Technology

‘What are the alien’s motivations?’

At the second annual Penn State SETI Symposium, hosted by the Penn State Extraterrestrial Intelligence Center at the Eberly College of Science, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory program manager Nick Siegler discussed a novel approach to the search for signs of alien technology.

Siegler shared an interesting theory, developed in collaboration with Sofia Sheikh, a postdoctoral fellow at the SETI Institute and 2021 Penn State graduate. “If you could speculate what the alien motivation is, that might inform you on what type of technosignature investigation you are going to conduct,” Siegler proposed. He further explained that technosignatures are scientific observations that could reveal the existence of technology beyond our own in the universe.

In his presentation, Siegler explored how potential motivations of extraterrestrial beings could affect the ways scientists search for technosignatures. He admits, though, that this speculation is quite unconventional: “That’s a little bit out there isn’t it? To try to speculate ‘what are the alien’s motivations?’”

He suggested that civilizations interested in transforming a new planet to suit their needs would leave different signatures compared to those attempting to gather energy from nearby systems for use on their home planet.

Siegler also mentioned an upcoming study aimed at identifying where NASA could have a positive impact on technosignature investigations. With his role in NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program, Siegler has contributed to the search for inhabited exoplanets and the identification of technologies useful for studying extraterrestrial signals. His proposed methods to search for signs of life on a planet range from examining specific atmospheric gases to more serendipitous discoveries: “While you are observing these planets over courses of days you might get lucky, and you might find other contributors that you weren’t expecting,” Siegler added.

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