It turns out there are no aliens out there, scientists just had a look

20 Apr 2015

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This artist's impression of an alien civilisation is, unfortunately, inaccurate

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A bunch of scientists just scoured 100,000 galaxies with NASA’s WISE orbiting observatory and found no evidence of highly advanced life. We’re all alone.

They essentially searched for heat emissions, theorising that any advanced life would need to emit such on mid-infrared wavelengths if they were to achieve anything significant.

They found nothing.

"The idea behind our research is that, if an entire galaxy had been colonised by an advanced spacefaring civilisation, the energy produced by that civilisation's technologies would be detectable in mid-infrared wavelengths – exactly the radiation that the WISE satellite was designed to detect for other astronomical purposes," said Jason Wright, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University, and the man behind the research.

It’s a far cry from NASA’s own claim two weeks ago that we’re just three decades from discovering life outside of Earth.

At the time, Ellen Stofan, a chief scientist at NASA, suggested we’d find something of note within one of a number of bodies of water which we’ve discovered around Earth, such as on the likes of Jupiter’s moons Ganymede, Europa and Callisto, as well as Enceladus and Titan, circling Saturn.

Stofan was not suggesting advanced life, as we’d probably know about that if it was in our own solar system, however Wright’s work will be a blow to anyone out there hopeful of shaking hands with an alien any time soon.

Penn State researcher Roger Griffith, the lead author of the paper, looked through most of WISE’s catalogue of galaxies – nearly 100 million entries – to find anything consistent with galaxies emitting overt amounts of mid-infrared radiations.

From that he found 100,000 galaxies and lowered the number even more when targeting specific parameters.

Wright points out that his team’s findings essentially mean that, despite the 100,000 galaxies being various ages, there’s no advanced life out there, which is odd.

"These galaxies are billions of years old, which should have been plenty of time for them to have been filled with alien civilisations, if they exist. Either they don't exist, or they don't yet use enough energy for us to recognise them," Wright said.

However, all is not lost, for there are a handful of galaxies that require further study – 50 to be precise. Follow up studies into these galaxies will either reveal their radiation to be natural, astronomical results, or aliens!

Alien city ruins image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt is senior communications and context executive at NDRC. He previously worked as a journalist with Silicon Republic.

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