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Scientists search for signs of alien refrigerants

USA: Scientists are to collaborate on a project to search the universe for signs of  refrigerants as a way of detecting life on other worlds.

While scientists scan Earth’s atmosphere to detect levels of synthetic refrigerants,  like CFCs and HCFCs, they will now be searching the universe for signs of the same refrigerants. 

Backed by a grant from NASA, scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the University of Rochester are collaborating on a project to search the universe for signs of scientific evidence of past and present technology, or technosignatures.

Researchers believe that although life appears in many forms, the scientific principles remain the same, and that the technosignatures identifiable on Earth will also be identifiable in some fashion outside of the solar system. “Technosignatures relate to signatures of advanced alien technologies similar to, or perhaps more sophisticated than, what we possess,” said Avi Loeb, Frank B Baird Jr professor of science at Harvard. “Such signatures might include industrial pollution of atmospheres, city lights, photovoltaic cells (solar panels), megastructures, or swarms of satellites.”

While scientists can search for those naturally produced chemicals like methane, they are now also searching for artificial chemicals and gases. The presence of synthetic refrigerants like CFCs could indicate the presence of industrial activity.

 “We pollute Earth’s atmosphere with our industrial activity,” said Loeb. “If another civilization had been doing it for much longer than we have, then their planet’s atmosphere might show detectable signs of artificially produced molecules that nature is very unlikely to produce spontaneously, such as chlorofluorocarbons.” 

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