Alien Life Hunt Expands To Red Dwarf Systems

Alien Life Hunt Expands To Red Dwarf Systems
April 04 09:19 2016 Print This Article

(SKY News) – The search for alien life is expanding to planets in 20,000 ancient star systems after scientists discovered that life could potentially thrive in their environments.

Planets orbiting red dwarfs – dim stars which are typically billions of years older than our Sun – were previously considered poor targets for intelligent life.

But astronomer Seth Shostak, from the California-based non-profit SETI organisation, said: “This may be one instance in which older is better.”

“Older solar systems have had more time to produce intelligent species.”

Scientists will use SETI’s telescope array to examine 20,000 of the nearest red dwarfs, and the cosmic bodies that surround them.

The team will use several so-called “magical” frequency bands which are related to basic mathematical constants.

SETI scientist Gerry Harp said: “It’s reasonable to speculate that extraterrestrials trying to attract attention might generate signals at such special frequencies.”

Exploring red dwarf systems has been off the table for many years, because scientists thought that the planets within them would have very small habitable zones.

But a SETI spokesman said: “Exoplanet data has suggested that somewhere between one sixth and one half of red dwarf stars have planets in their habitable zones, a percentage comparable to, and possibly greater than, for Sun-like stars.”

While no life beyond Earth has yet been discovered, NASA said last year that clues could be found within the next 10 to 20 years.

Chief scientist Ellen Stofan said: “We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.”

NASA’s next Mars rover, which will launch in 2020, will search for signs of past life and bring samples back to Earth for analysis.

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