Looking for atmospheric pollution in other planets could result in the discovery of alien life forms, according to researchers from the United States.
A new telescope, called the James Webb Space Telescope, is set to be launched in 2018. The device would be able to measure the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere of a planet. And the researchers stated that if intelligent life forms exist, we are likely to find them by tracking their atmospheric pollution, rather than trying to track the aliens themselves.
The study also reveals, however, that finding atmospheric pollution may not be the only criteria to find an intelligent life form, outside planet Earth.
"We consider industrial pollution as a sign of intelligent life," said Henry Lin, a student at the Harvard University, and the leader of the study. "But perhaps civilizations more advanced than us, with their own SETI programs, will consider pollution as a sign of unintelligent life since it's not smart to contaminate your own air."
There is also a large possibility that a search like this could help us discover an extinct civilization, according to the researchers. There are many pollutants which could last up to 50,000 years. Most of the pollutants, however, live for a much shorter period of time, i.e. not more than a decade or so.
Astronomers should look for both kinds of pollutants, according to the researchers. This way, they could also find some alien life form that has wizened up to its pollution problems, and may have devised a new way to make their planet both greener and industrialization friendly.
"Or in a darker scenario, it would serve as a warning sign of not being good stewards of our own planet," said Avi Loeb, Professor, Department of Astronomy at the Harvard University, and co-author of the study.
Either way, it should serve as a warning sign for the human beings, inhabiting planet Earth, to clean up their act.
There is a problem, however, with this method. CFCs are only visible in planets like Earth, which is close to a White Dwarf (the burnt out remnants of a star that was once much like the Sun).
It is also unclear whether the planet would be habitable, if traces of CFCs are found in them. Yet another theory states that extraterrestrials far more advanced than humans might have found a way to capitalize the CFCs, by infusing it into the atmosphere to keep their planet warm. This would only be possible in a planet that is too cold for its inhabitants.