Today's Xenology subject is Xenoarchaeology, often also called "Space Archaeology".
If you are a science fiction fan, then you have most likely read the book or seen the movie
2001: A Space Odyssey.
You will know that the discovery of an
alien mysterious black monolith buried beneath the Lunar surface is the beginning of a great space adventure. The discovery of alien artifacts in our cosmic
neighborhood would be one of the biggest events in the history of humankind.
Xenoarchaeology, is a broad field of hypothetical science involving the study of the remains of extraterrestrial civilizations. In science fiction,
xenoarchaeology is practiced on distant planets, studying extraterrestrial cultures much as one studies ancient civilizations here on our own planet.
The name derives from Greek "xenos", which means 'stranger, alien', and archaeology 'study of ancients'.
On the Moon we humanity has already registered the remains of the Apollo 11 mission in the so-called Sea of Tranquility as a "Historical Resource."
"It's about time that we acknowledged the importance of these sites for mankind," says Beth O'Leary, an anthropologist at New Mexico State University and
the co-founder of the Lunar Legacy Project.
O'Leary and her colleagues have compiled a map identifying the items left at the landing site, as well as a comprehensive list of Apollo's junk.
Space archaeologists are worried that future missions, or possibly moon tourists, could loot and even destroy this sacred site of earth history.
"Can you imagine someone driving a cart over Neil Armstrong's first footprint?" warns Peter Capelotti, an anthropologist at Penn State University in Abington, Pennsylvania.
The artifacts of human missions to the moon and Mars are urgently in need of official protection, says Capelotti,
"Otherwise we must be prepared to someday see pieces of Apollo 11 listed for sale on eBay."
In Arthur C. Clarke's book
2001: A Space Odyssey the discovery of an artifical monolith
on the Moon is the beginning of a fascinating space adventure.
Scientists point out we should also not dismiss the possibility that ET artifacts could exists close to our planet and some alien devices might even observe us.
One of the reasons we have not found such alien artifacts is because we have not looked in all places, scientists from the Penn State University say.
"The vastness of space, combined with our limited searches to date, implies that any remote unpiloted exploratory probes of extraterrestrial origin would likely
remain unnoticed," said Jacob Haqq-Misra, Rock Ethics Institute, and Ravi Kumar Kopparapu, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute.
So far, we have not found any nonterrestrial artifacts in our solar system. The Fermi paradox, originally formulated by Enrico Fermi, asks, if intelligent
life is common, why have no technological civilizations been observed.
Answers to this question could include life is rare, intelligent cultures inevitably
destroy themselves, intelligent beings have not gotten here yet or they are here but not revealing themselves.
Even without actual contact, like us, other civilizations could be sending unpiloted probes to quietly peek at our civilization.
Where would extraterrestrials place alien artifacts or probes? Image credit: Lucas film
These probes, like ours, would be small and might be hidden in a variety of places. In the asteroid belt they would probably go unnoticed, especially if these
nonterrestrial objects are only 3 to 33 feet in size, weighing little more than a ton.
"Extraterrestrial artifacts may exist in the solar system without our knowledge simply because we have not yet searched sufficiently," said Haqq-Misra and Kopparapu.
"Few if any of the attempts would be capable of detecting a 1 to 10 meter (3 to 33 foot) probe."
Haqq-Misra and Kopparapu use a probabilistic method to determine if we have looked closely enough anywhere in the solar system to definitively say there are
no nonterrestrial objects here. The analysis is based on answering the question: How sure can we be that we should have already found any nonterrestrial
objects lurking in the solar system?
The asteroid belt is a perfect hiding place for alien artifacts. Image credit: NASA
They view the solar system as a fixed volume and figure out the percentages of that volume that would need to be thoroughly searched using a discovery
capability small enough to detect these probes, assuming that the probes are not consciously camouflaged. The researchers note that most searches to date
have not been fine enough to locate such small probes or to totally rule out anywhere.
After taking into account a variety of potential biases, such as "the universe is teeming with life" or "life is rare," the team developed an equation
that can be applied to a portion of the volume of the solar system and determine whether sufficient searching has been done to ensure that we can say there
are no nonterrestrial objects within that volume.
The researchers found that it is, at this point, difficult to say that there are not nonterrestrial objects in our solar system.
Will we one day find such monoliths on alien planets?
"The surface of the Earth is one of the few places in the solar system that has been almost completely examined at a spatial resolution of less than 3 feet,"
said Haqq-Misra and Kopparapu.
But even as humans have spread across the solid surfaces of the Earth, there are still caves, jungles and deserts as well as the ocean floor and subsurface
areas that have not been explored. Even with this, the Earth does have a high confidence that no nonterrestrial artifacts exist.
The moon and Mars have been searched to a small extent. An ongoing mapping project, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, is looking at the moon at a resolution
of about 20 inches, so we may eventually be able to determine if there are no nonterrestrial objects on the moon. The researchers caution that surface maps
may not be sufficient to distinguish between a space probe and a rock.
The surface of Mars is still mostly unsurveyed and the researchers' confidence in the probability of no nonterrestrial artifacts is low. Similarly, locations
like the Earth-moon Lagrange points, the asteroid belt and the Kuiper belt might also shelter extra solar system probes, but the vast majority of the solar
system's volume is uninvestigated.
"Searches to date of the solar system are sufficiently incomplete that we cannot rule out the possibility that nonterrestrial artifacts are present and may
even be observing us," said Haqq-Misra and Kopparapu.
The researchers also said that "the completeness of our search for nonterrestrial objects will inevitably increase as we continue to explore the moon,
Mars and other nearby regions of space."
Just because we haven't yet found any ET artifacts doesn't mean they do not exist. An alien probe could even orbit our planet and monitor everything it
happens here without our knowledge of its existence. Not to mention the possibility that an
alien message can be implanted in your DNA.
Extraterrestrial technology can be so advanced that it is undetectable to us, byt that should not discourage us.
Advanced Extraterrestrial Civilizations -
Their Technology And Capabilities
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, "Arthur C. Clarke once wrote a long time ago.
In this Xenology article we take a look at who could be out there and what kind of advanced technology they could posses.
"Soon, humanity may face an existential shock as the current list of a dozen Jupiter-sized extra-solar planets swells to hundreds of earth-sized planets,
almost identical twins of our celestial homeland.
Unusual Organisms Living On Pandora -
A Fictional Alien World That Could Be Real
What kind of unusual organisms could exists on a world like Pandora? What could we expect to find there?
As we are about to find out the line between science fiction and science fact is thin indeed.
Pandora is the idyllic blue world featured in the movie Avatar. Its location is a real place,
Alpha Centauri, the nearest star to our Sun and the most likely destination for our first journey beyond the solar system.
Cosmic Secrets Of Cthulhu Revealed By Scientists
Many stories have been written about these extraterrestrial creatures whose very existence is outside the realm of human understanding.
The science behind Cthulhu has intrigued many researchers. How can we explain and understand the existence of this cosmic creature? ...
Alien Species Living In The Inner Milky Way Could Be In Danger
Few people doubt there is intelligent alien life in the Milky Way galaxy, but where can we expect to find it?
Astronomers think that while the inner sector of the MIlky Way Galaxy may be the most likely to support habitable worlds.
Unfortunately some of these places are also most dangerous to all life-forms.
When Will Humans Join The Galactic Club?
Most people believe that humans will sooner or later establish open contact with aliens.
When it happens, we might get an invitation to join what scientists and science-fiction writers refer to as the "Galactic Club".
There is also a possibity that advanced extraterrestrial civilizations will not welcome us a new members.
Black Plants Could Exist On Alien Worlds With Two Suns
We have previously seen what auroras might like on alien worlds.
This time we examine how life on planets in binary star systems can evolve.
Earth-like planets with two or three suns would have multiple sources of light that could be used for photosynthesis. This means plants on such worlds could be dark, even completely black.
Photosynthesis, converting sunlight into energy is the basis for the majority of life on Earth.
Alien Message Can Be Hidden In Your DNA
Do We All Carry A Cosmic Greeting Card?
While SETI is busy searching for signals from alien civilizations, there are scientists who think we can find proof of advanced extraterrestrial life much closer to home - namely in our DNA!
Instead of leaving artefacts for humans to find once they are sufficiently evolved, an advanced extraterrestrial civilizations might instead incorporate information into the
human genome, allowing it to be copied and maintained over immense periods of time.