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Moon Space Science

SETI To Scour the Moon For Alien Footprints? 167

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-an-old-hierarchy-monitor-station-and-some-robots dept.
astroengine writes "Although we have an entire universe to seek out the proverbial alien needle in a haystack, perhaps looking in our own backyard would be a good place to start. That's the conclusions reached by Paul Davies and Robert Wagner of Arizona State University, anyway. The pair have published a paper in the journal Acta Astronautica detailing how SETI could carry out a low-cost crowdsourcing program (a la SETI@Home) to scour the lunar surface for alien artifacts, thereby gaining clues on whether intelligent aliens are out there and whether they've paid the solar system a visit in the moon's recent history."
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SETI To Scour the Moon For Alien Footprints?

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  • Oh For Fuck's Sake (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hondo77 (324058) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:26PM (#38508030) Homepage
    <facepalm/>
  • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:27PM (#38508042)

    It's behind a paywall, don't bother. disregard. A pity, sounds like an interesting idea, would have been nice to read about it.

  • Our own backyard? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mikachu (972457) <jjburke&hunter,cuny,edu> on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:27PM (#38508044) Homepage
    I appreciate the idea of searching for extraterrestrial artifacts, but the moon does not seem a logical place for aliens to drop off their stuff. If anything, it seems far more likely that the earth would be such a place, seeing as it has life already (and has been far more active over the course of its history) so if it makes sense to search anywhere, it's here. I'm not sure what could really be accomplished by scouring the moon...
    • Skip the Rock and Head for the Water

      Oh Crap, captured by the intense gravity and burned up in the dense atmosphere
    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:35PM (#38508146) Journal
      If you wanted to leave a lasting indication of your existence, the moon would be a good place for it. It's unusual in our solar system (the only large moon around a rocky planet). If they visited in the last few billion years, then it would have been in orbit around a planet with life. It also lacks the surface erosion that you get on Earth (no water freezing and melting, no atmospheric effects), so an artefact left there would last for a long time. The stuff the Apollo crews left there is still in good condition - imagine what state it would be in if it were left almost anywhere on Earth (with the possible exception of Antarctica) for the same length of time...
      • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:57PM (#38508412)

        The stuff the Apollo crews left there is still in good condition - imagine what state it would be in if it were left almost anywhere on Earth

        It would have been stolen and fenced on eBay . . . along with those Moon rocks "lost" by NASA . . .

        Alien Earth Visitor to his Captain: "I have violated our Prime Directive. I left our technology on Earth. That will influence the development of their culture."

        Captain: "Don't worry about it. Someone will steal it and sell on eBay, where no one will believe that it is authentic anyway. These Earthlings are a thieving race."

        • by elrous0 (869638) *

          Alien Earth Visitor to his Captain: But we can still anally probe them, right?

          Captain: Of course. Set your course for the nearest trailer park.

    • by perpenso (1613749)

      I appreciate the idea of searching for extraterrestrial artifacts, but the moon does not seem a logical place for aliens to drop off their stuff. If anything, it seems far more likely that the earth would be such a place, seeing as it has life already (and has been far more active over the course of its history) so if it makes sense to search anywhere, it's here. I'm not sure what could really be accomplished by scouring the moon...

      The argument in the SETI paper is that the lunar environment can preserve surface artifacts and alterations for millions of years. Plus the search only involves looking at satellite imagery be collected for other reasons. No one is claiming the moon was a more likely destination.

      • Re:Our own backyard? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:50PM (#38508332) Homepage Journal

        Why on the moon? Why not in a high orbit around the earth. No need to land anything and it would be easier to spot for any technologically advanced society. Put a really big shinny metal ball in orbit at say 70,000 km and it will stay in orbit for geological time scales and if big enough be visible with a telescope from earth. How bit it needs to be will depend on how shiny and how bit of a telescope you are using. It doesn't have to be heavy just big.

        • by Pharmboy (216950)

          Why on the moon? Why not in a high orbit around the earth.

          You mean, like this one? [huffingtonpost.com] ;)

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          But if it's visible with a telescope from earth, then those earth lifeforms would be able to see it long before they developed the means to go look at it up-close. Maybe the Aliens want to wait for us to naturally develop both the desire and the ability to go into space and explore other celestial bodies before we stumble across an artifact from them.

          • by devilspgd (652955)

            If this were the case, the opposite side of the moon would be a good candidate, as might putting it in Earth's orbit, but located on the opposite side of the sun from us.

            • by Grishnakh (216268)

              Exactly, just like the monolith in 2001.

          • by LWATCDR (28044)

            Until we where very developed we would have no idea that it was not natural. Frankly our extremely large moon already surved that function very well. Not to mention that the very act of developing larger and larger telescopes shows a desire to explore other celestial bodies.
            Simple truth is that trying to decide what is hidden enough for an alien race that is capable of interstellar flight is a fools errand. But then again it is also most likely a fools errand to look for artifacts on the moon. My choice is

            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              Simple truth is that trying to decide what is hidden enough for an alien race that is capable of interstellar flight is a fools errand.

              Especially since according to everything we know so far, interstellar flight is impoossible.

              • by LWATCDR (28044)

                No manned interstellar flight is currently impossible. No real reason that robotic missions are impossible.

                • by mcgrew (92797) *

                  No real reason that robotic missions are impossible.

                  Voyager has been travelling for forty years and is just now at the edge of the solar system. If it were headed to Proxima Centuri it wouldn't arrive for millinea. It takes ten to twenty minutes, depending on where the respective planets are in their orbits, for a radio signal to reach the Mars rovers.

                  • by LWATCDR (28044)

                    So? Voyager is not the fastest space craft we could build even then. It is not the fastest space craft we could build today. Today with an unlimited budget we could build a nuclear powered ion drive and maybe reach Proxima in a century or two. In the future we may go even faster with a laser pumped solar sail.
                    So no not impossible but very difficult and possibly impractical today for us. A century or so of progress and it may become practical if not before then.

        • by NEDHead (1651195)

          Exactly!! And make it look like a disproportionately large moon! No one will ever miss the obvious alien gigundous moon orbiting Earth! Oh, wait...

    • by tverbeek (457094)

      OK, maybe aliens are more likely to have visited the Earth than the Moon.

      So: Where on the Earth are we likely to be able to see undisturbed footprints (or pawprints or tentacleprints or whatever) dating back more than a few days, weeks, months, or (if we're lucky) years? It would have to be some place without other living things that would obscure those footprints by walking all over them, and a place without air or water to erode them. It would also have to be lacking in indigenous lifeforms (ever) that c

    • by Jeremi (14640)

      the moon does not seem a logical place for aliens to drop off their stuff. If anything, it seems far more likely that the earth would be such a place, seeing as it has life already

      Precisely why the lifeless moon is a better place. That way the local riff-raff is less likely to steal your stuff.

    • Re:Our own backyard? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cavreader (1903280) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @08:52PM (#38509658)
      If clear evidence of extraterrestrials is ever found can you imagine the gigantic shit storm it would create? Just watching all the various religions running around in circles trying to fit the fact into their sacred canons would be hilarious. Back in the day anyone claiming the Earth was round and not flat were labeled heretics and killed. Galileo's observations of the basic structure of the solar system almost got him killed.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        If clear evidence of extraterrestrials is ever found can you imagine the gigantic shit storm it would create? Just watching all the various religions running around in circles trying to fit the fact into their sacred canons would be hilarious.

        I've studied quite a bit of comparative religion, and I think you're just wrong about this.
        Can you name a single religion that would really have a big problem with it, and explain why?

        • Re:Our own backyard? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by cavreader (1903280) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @12:46AM (#38511656)
          Most main stream religions seem to pontificate about how God created man in is own image. The main religions of the world which are Christianity and Islam were created are to serve as a control mechanism that allowed the people at the top to gain power and wealth. Organized religion is responsible for unspeakable acts of cruelty that have more more to do with maintaining power and wealth for it's leaders than it does for providing comfort for the regular worshipper. Islam is especially good example of how to keep people on their knees far better than any monarchy or similar political system could. The religious leaders through the ages have used their power to extract subservience to the church or mosques using "God" as the control. I have always believed that the religions think in small terms. In order for man or any other lifeforms to exists first requires the creation of the entire universe before it can be populated with lifeforms but the major religions on Earth define it as the center of all creation. Politicians of all types mouth religious proclamations to gain power. The US leaders who mention God do so knowing they really have nothing to lose and pandering to religions to obtain votes from the religious blocks of voters. To me religious faith is a personal and internal state of mind that does not depend on practicing man made made rituals and relying on books written by man. In my opinion discovering that humanity is not alone in the universe can lessen the religious power that know is used to control people.
          • Christianity was not created as a control mechanism to give people at the top power and wealth. You're thinking of Catholicism. They are not the same thing. Of course, the Catholic church claims to be the authorized Christian religion, and has done many things while claiming to act in God's name--but their claiming things does not make such things true. The Christianity that Jesus proclaimed is not like that at all. Catholicism is a human distortion of God's plan--the same could be said for other "vers

            • by hondo77 (324058)

              The Christianity that Jesus proclaimed is not like that at all. Catholicism is a human distortion of God's plan--the same could be said for all "versions" of Christianity.

              FTFY.

              • by gottabeme (590848)

                I'm not sure what you mean by that. If you believe that God's plan included sending Jesus to redeem the world from sin, then you should believe that God's plan does include Christianity. If you mean that no one is perfect, so no one perfectly practices God's plan, I won't argue with that--but that's not the point. If you mean that Jesus himself didn't call it "Christianity," that's not the point either.

                The point is that we have God's word, and He gives us wisdom when we ask for it, so we can do our best

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            Most main stream religions seem to pontificate about how God created man in is own image

            Only if you only count Abrahamic religions as "mainstream". There are millions upon millions of Bhuddists and Hindus, you know. AND, if and when we do find ET, do you really think he's going to be a Vulcan? Look at the diversity of life on earth, all of which has a common evolution. The sci-fi idea (usually in movies and TV, seldom in literature) that ET will look anything at all like us is ludicrous, even more ludicrous

            • "That's just flat out incorrect" Pick up a history book and you will find plenty of examples of people using religion to coerce and control a subject population. Better yet they have even created a system that even governments hesitate to act against. The Spanish Inquisition is one of the more prominent examples of the church saying obey us or face a slow and agonizing death. The actions of the Catholic church during WW2 is another example of egregious behavior. Just recently they have discovered a hoard o
              • by mcgrew (92797) *

                Pick up a history book and you will find plenty of examples of people using religion to coerce and control a subject population.

                That's true, but religion isn't the culprit here, any more than a chain saw is the culprit in a murder. That's not what a chain saw is designed to do, but it can be used for it.

                You might as well blame state-sanctioned athiesm for the horrors of Stalin or Pol Pot. Of course, it wasn't athiesm that caused those atrocities, any more than it was religion that caused the atrocities you

        • Exactly. Any such new information would be integrated so fast... well, really fast. Blink of an eye. "Of course there is life in the stars, just as prophesied by our spiritual leader in verse blah-blah-blah." The only people who would be labelled heretics would be any earthling who would suggest that the aliens could possibly be atheists.

      • Just watching all the various religions running around in circles trying to fit the fact into their sacred canons would be hilarious

        In a sense, the whole idea behind any religion is to assimilate various contradictions and conundrums and take ownership of them. A religion that didn't rely on inexplicable weird stuff wouldn't last long.

        With Christianity, for instance, nothing we'll ever find in the Universe is going to be harder to retcon than what's already written in the Bible, but that hasn't kept the Ch

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        If clear evidence of extraterrestrials is ever found can you imagine the gigantic shit storm it would create?

        I'm a Christian, and I think the liklihood that this rock is the only one one bering life is improbable. On the other hand, there are so many here at slashdot that are 100% certain we will find ET. Such faith! Me, I think it's unlikely we'll not find ET sooner or later, but it's not unthinkable that this is the only place with life.

        Back in the day anyone claiming the Earth was round and not flat were

    • Read "The Sentinel [wikipedia.org]" by Arthur C Clarke.
  • by 50000BTU_barbecue (588132) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:27PM (#38508050) Homepage Journal
    I enjoyed his Inherit the Stars [wikipedia.org] series.
    • by rts008 (812749)

      I also found 'Inherit the Stars' to be a good read.

      For the curious, 'Inherit the Stars' is available for free at the Baen Free Library [baen.com], and the rest of the series is available for purchase from Baen for $4-$6.00 USD for each book.

      Also check out 'Mutineer's Moon' (Dahak series) for another interesting premise, also free at the Baen Free Library.

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:27PM (#38508058)

    Not sure how feasible this would be to crowdsource. Wouldn't you need some reasonably trained eyeballs to avoid the cost and time of researching the "ooo I see a footprint" dead-ends?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Crowdsourcing on the Moon could solve the population problem on Earth.

  • bullseye? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:45PM (#38508284)

    I can't read the article, but wouldn't it be better to plant non-visual clues if we were trying to signal to an alien civilization?

    Maybe... concentric rings of something weird for the moon, like an obscure U isotope? with something cool buried at the bullseye?

    A bored physicist spending too much time with a cyclotron separator on a lonely posting on the far end of the galaxy could be pretty entertaining if he got a bit squirrely in carrying out his mission. How about some weird isotope that is mostly stable and can only be made in a reactor? Maybe some Tc-98? The Ru-98 decay product is stable, and a high concentration of Ru-98 laying about would be almost as bizarre as finding Tc-98 laying about.

    I think driving a mass spectrometer around the planets and moons would be an interesting scientific study regardless of SETI implications.

    For that matter, if "they" planted a decorative geometric care package of Tc-98 on the moon, I'm not entirely clear why "they" couldn't have done something similar here, somewhere geologically stable-ish.

    Interestingly enough, more than 100 yrs ago all this Tc-98 talk would have been meaningless. Its hard to say how future techs might find even weirder stuff. If there is any real world prime directive, it might not rely on being observed, the galactic "you must be this tall for the ride" chart might be observing something really weird once we have quantum computers or a convenient portable intense hand held source of higgs particles.

    I would imagine a really bored physicist could do other odd Fortean stuff, like bury a giant freaking microwave waveguide turned into an interdigital filter with passbands such that you whack it with a strong white noise source the resulting output displayed on a spectrum analyzer is a crazy morse code/rs-232 like signal saying "hi", or maybe "dig here for care package". Even just burying radar retroreflectors in a geometric pattern would totally freak out the radar guys.

    Note to boss: Do not send vlm on boring interplanetary field posting or he's really going to intensely F with the native's heads once he goes bonkers, or more bonkers anyway.

  • by ack_call (870944) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:50PM (#38508334)
    http://www.viewzone.com/monalisa.html [viewzone.com]

    I want to believe it's real - but if this really is on the moon then I think we'd have been visiting the moon more frequently to study its construction and the technology it would hold - but we haven't so for that reason I don't believe.
    • Modded 5 "interesting"... ok. Fortunately it's not up to "informative"...
    • by gQuigs (913879)

      That's totally the premise from the latest transformers movie.. and I never thought I would say that they actually did a more convincing job in that movie than the above site...

  • by Tanuki64 (989726) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @06:57PM (#38508404)

    A drunk loses the keys to his house and is looking for them under a lamppost. A policeman comes over and asks what he's doing.

    "I'm looking for my keys" he says. "I lost them over there".

    The policeman looks puzzled. "Then why are you looking for them all the way over here?"

    "Because the light is so much better".

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @07:32PM (#38508838) Journal

    Near the lamppost.

    Why?

    "Because that's where the light is!"

    Sort of the same reasoning is at play here, we are looking for the "keys" on the moon not because that's the best way to find SETI but because well it's "easy" (just crowd source it) and cheap (as long as we've already got hi-res photos of much of the moons surface).

    It should not be viewed as a replacement for other more serious efforts (that will actually cost money).

  • I would say it's pretty much pointless, but won't do any harm.

    Why do I think it's pointless? Well, I don't think that aliens visited. While I don't doubt very much there's life elsewhere, maybe even intelligent life, maybe even life with a civilisation that came up with technology, I doubt very much that faster-than-light travel is possible. Still, who knows?

    IF there were aliens visiting our system, having them leave some sign on the Moon isn't that silly an idea. Things there will last a long time and if t

    • by devilspgd (652955)

      Of course if you crowdsource such a search there will be no shortage of idiots seeing things in perfectly natural shadows and whatever. Better use software to look for straight lines and geometric shapes. I doubt it will find anything worthwhile, but it's surely fun and shouldn't be too hard to do anyway.

      While it's true that idiots will find "strange" things in natural phenomenon, that isn't necessarily a bad thing if you set the hit threshold appropriately high. Once a block is assigned as being possible, you might then schedule that same block to be reviewed by additional users (more than normal, and much faster) to speed up identification. As long as one or two idiots can't waste a ton of time, the actual scientists can then perform a review.

      Software generally needs to be told what to look for while huma

  • This is not really a bad idea, considering as well the moon has little erosion, you wouldnt just be looking for something in the recent history, but considering the moon is 4.5 billion years old, there is a possibility that someone could have been there in the past. It is sort of ridiculous to assume that if intelligent life did visit the moon that it would have done so, just in the past few years, or that, some past vist there long ago would be of no interest, of course it would be of interest. Also consid

  • by Rix (54095)

    The moon is no longer really out of reach of private activity. For the moment it still takes noticeable economic activity, but don't count it staying that way.

  • This seems like a job for computers. They don't have to recognize what an image is; they just have to recognize that it's "sufficiently anomalous to what is typical of the lunar landscape". If nothing else, use image recognition to flag "interesting" areas for further inspection by a human being.
  • Great! Where do I sign up?

    (No, I didn't read the article)

  • ... what need would they have of anything at the bottom of a energetically expensive gravity well? Covering interstellar distance at less than light speed necessitates adaptation to micro-gravity. Covering interstellar distance faster than light would require manipulating the laws of physics in a way that artificial gravity wouldn't seem difficult. So you'd eliminate the need to cater for fleshy gravity-adapted bodies that suffer in microgravity. Either way the technological level required for these feats m
  • Let's assume that the Aliens DID leave us some thing on the moon for us to find and it's pretty small and non-obvious from a distance (like a giant set of intersecting lines at the center of a huge circle). Don't ask me why, maybe they were lazy or they didn't want something that could be discovered by just looking through a telescope on earth.

    Aside from the ideas previously expressed using some sort of technological marker (radioactivity, isotopes or, as in "2001" a magnetic anomaly) where would they put

  • That any advanced alien race has *ever* visited the vicinity of our world. As Douglas Adams put it, "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space."

    That's not to say I don't think that extraterrestrial life exists. It almost certainly does. Is some of that life intelligent? Maybe. Is that intelligent life (barring superluminal space travel) close enough t

    • by Urkki (668283)

      That any advanced alien race has *ever* visited the vicinity of our world. As Douglas Adams put it, "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space."

      Yeah, but size of space is just n^3, which is easily outpaced by exponential population growth. In other words, if interstellar expansion of a civilization is possible, this civilization will fill the galaxy in matter of millions to hundreds of millions of years, depending on speed of interstellar travel (size of our galaxy is in the scale of mere hundred thousand light years). And assuming no available "infinite" energy sources ("hyperspace tap", "infinite zero-point energy", "portable white holes", "quark

  • This is an incredibly stupid idea, so much so that it's making me suspect that SETI people don't really care about science. The obvious problem is that we don't know what "alien footprints" look like. Therefore, the searchers are basically supposed to report anything which looks significant or weird to them.

    Here is what I predict: We won't discover an alien capsule, but we'll definitely see formations where aliens arranged rocks to look like

    1. some Egyptian heiroglyph,
    2. an uncanny likeness of a human f
  • The "aliens have visited the moon" is a pretty common trope in SF (2001: A Space Odyssey [wikipedia.org], In the Ocean of Night [wikipedia.org], Inherit the Stars [wikipedia.org], and many others).

    While this makes a tolerable MacGuffin, somebody probably needs to tell these guys that it's not real.

  • Davies imagines some aliens who don't subscribe to the Leave No Trace ethic. Such anthropomorphic aliens suggest that he's been watching too much Star Trek. "If we can put a man on the Moon..." then we can avoid leaving tracks easily visible from miles away. Apollo was meant to leave tracks—on the Moon and in history books. Did alien observers wish their presence to be discovered later but not while they were here? Only that would explain such reckless ET behavior to me, but even so, I agree that it's

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