Search for alien life in Chile’s Atacama Desert

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Emiliano Lopez of Chile’s Gaja Observatory predicted three years ago that the presence of radio waves in the night sky represented an “extra terrestrial phenomenon” A search for…

Search for alien life in Chile's Atacama Desert

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Emiliano Lopez of Chile’s Gaja Observatory predicted three years ago that the presence of radio waves in the night sky represented an “extra terrestrial phenomenon”

A search for alien life in Chile’s Atacama Desert – the northernmost location in the world – could soon involve a novel approach: searching the sky for radio waves.

Dr Ramon Ireson of the University of California, San Diego, hopes to use publicly available telescopes to look for the signature of radio waves produced by hidden nearby sources.

“Radio waves are invisible to the naked eye,” he said.

He also believes they may be a sign of dark energy – an energy source which might explain the expanding universe.

Currently, scientists hunt for Earth-like planets by studying the star they orbit and the characteristics of the planet’s atmosphere.

Dr Ireson wants to work with astronomers in northern Chile to use public telescopes to search for natural phenomena that have never been studied before.

These include the glow created by dark energy, which may cancel out Earth’s ability to naturally produce radio waves.

Image copyright University of California Ramon Ireson Image caption Its size is comparable to the moon and one-quarter the distance from Earth to the sun

Dr Ireson is due to present his hypothesis in March at the American Astronomical Society conference in San Diego.

The Atacama Desert is roughly the same size as Mexico and is the location of Chile’s largest observatory, the Gaja Observatory in the town of Rionegro.

It is also the location of one of the largest solar-powered radio telescopes – known as The WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer).

Image copyright NASA, ESA and AO/AUI/NSF Image caption Scientists have already searched the Southern Hemisphere using radio data

Image copyright USGS Image caption Chile’s Atacama Desert is the northernmost location in the world

Its size is comparable to the moon and one-quarter the distance from Earth to the sun.

Its acquisition cycle is one-and-a-half years.

Dr Ireson said that he has already been approached by teams of researchers interested in tracking radio waves in the future.

“They see this as an interesting hypothesis to investigate,” he said.

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