Prof. dr. Mike Garrett (ASTRON, Universiteit Leiden)
Advanced alien civilisations in the local Universe – good night, sleep tight!
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is currently enjoying a major revival with the number of refereed journal papers increasingly substantially and the recent announcement that US/Russian billionaire Yuri Milner is investing £100M in SETI research over the next 10 years via the Breakthrough Listen initiative. I plan to present a general introduction to SETI and SETI research, highlighting some of the work that astronomers around the world are embarked upon. In particular, I will look at artefact SETI looking at how the signatures of advanced civilisations might manifest themselves in astronomical observations/data. I will argue from research performed in the US and here in the Netherlands that so far there is no unequivocal evidence for advanced (Karadashev Type III) civilisations in the local Universe. The jury is still out on the prevalence of Type II civilisations but the recent discovery of the Kepler system KIC 8462852 has prompted some astronomers to suggest that the bizarre light curve of this system might best be explained by Type II alien megastructures eclipsing the star. Nevertheless, there is no obvious evidence that our own solar system has ever been visited by other advanced civilisations – the solar system is pristine, apart from the space junk we ourselves have created and left behind on the Moon, Mars etc. From an astronomer’s or physicist’s admittedly simplistic point of view the Milky Way should be teaming with life. The fact that so far we have found no evidence for this raises some awkward questions about our understanding of the evolution of intelligent life in the cosmos.
N.b.: Deze lezing is in het Engels / This lecture will be in English