Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Officials, as well as scientists, are worried a lack of control over the interface could make it harder to cope with emergencies
NASA has asked for a new set of guidelines to improve search for life beyond Earth, as theories that extraterrestrial life might exist within Earth’s solar system rise in popularity.
Officials are worried that an inability to control how the interface between alien signals and Earth-based sensors might be managed could reduce the chance of them finding a signal.
There are almost more ideas that it’s there than any where we can get data. Scott C Waring
US space agency has pointed out that there are already guidelines, but believes the new research will improve search methods.
Coneating radio transmission was the last big technological achievement in the search for Earth-based evidence that alien life exists, but this decade has been dominated by hypothesised technologies which could easily step into the void that technology once left.
The possibility of use of interstellar travel and the eradication of existing interstellar travel methods have made further research into potential alien technology commonplace in discussions of the possibility of life on other planets.
The search for signs of extraterrestrial life has grown in a boom in technological interest.
Last year the US agency, along with the University of Arizona and the Danish research institute Langlands and Partners, published a study in the journal The Astrophysical Journal about the possibility of interstellar travel involving massive numbers of transmitters.
From a technological perspective and from the prospect of a life on other planets in other solar systems, it is very possible.
The problem is, where to look?
Image copyright NASA Image caption NASA has played down concerns that broadcasting signals will interfere with alien signals
Currently, the fact that spacecrafts are relying on radio signals from Earth for their own communications, has not prevented them exploring the way that extraterrestrial spacecraft may communicate to each other, but the existence of any artificial signals in the near future would no doubt give them cause for concern.
Scott C Waring, chief technology officer of the conspiracy website UFO Sightings Daily, told CNN that the new research could help greatly in the future.
“We currently have radio telescopes. These receive radio signals from Earth. To decode these the receiver must insert some form of transmitter into the signal.
“I believe this way of sensing was designed for a purpose. Now technology has improved to the point where it would be possible to broadcast these signals directly into the atmosphere and be heard by a receiver on Earth, no [interference].”
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The Sun is the main source of earthly transmissions to Earth, so any signal coming from an alien life-form on a distant planet could arrive within the frequency range of any of the radio telescopes on Earth.
NASA says the problem with previous attempts to find alien signals has been in the way signals that should have been picked up, but still weren’t, were given special attention.
“It should be noted that the topic of co-existence is difficult because the demand for co-operation and communication between systems in one subject area is inherently at odds with an opposite or incompatible viewpoint in a different subject area,” a statement from the US space agency said.
A search of signals from all of Earth’s solar system would require a whole new world of digital technology, pointing out Scott D Large, professor of radio astronomy at the University of Manchester, speaking to BBC Radio 4.
“It is by no means certain that technology will improve to the point that we will be able to transmit into space and be detected.
“An additional point to consider is that in modern systems such as the internet we have trouble understanding what’s going on.
“There is a particular quality called noise which, at least in any standard computer, does not disappear.”
A BBC review of the most popular explanations for alien life generated 40,000 submissions.