Are we alone in the universe? it’s a concern whose answer—whether it’s correctly or no—would philosophically and scientifically rock our human being to the core.

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To find out, scientists have long been turning an effective radio telescopes come the cosmos. The theory is that, choose us, various other intelligent species are maybe broadcasting radio signals v the patent “unnatural” signature the a technical civilization.

But despite decades of will listening, we’ve yet to pick anything up. Also in a current survey the 10 million stars by the Murchison Widefield range radio telescope in west Australia—one that the most substantial to date—scientists discovered nothing the note.

Where is everyone?

Theories abound, but one possibility is we merely haven’t looked enough. Our galaxy, v its thousands of billions that stars and also countless planets, is a very large place. The scientists conducting the Murchison survey said it was choose searching one area the dimension of a swimming swimming pool in the ocean. In our find for a needle, possibly we simply need come sift an ext straw.

But there’s a problem.

Our own civilization’s ceaseless radio chatter—which, in concept at least, would be similar to the signals SETI’s browsing for—is growing louder, making it much harder for scientists to filter out regional noise. While researchers have actually techniques and software come remove human signals, some are suggesting a much more radical solution. Can we escape the noise entirely?

The more from civilization you go—Australia’s outback or Chile’s Atacama desert—the much more the chatter fades. And if you keep adhering to this line of thinking to its end, you’ll soil in a location with the most profound silence of all: the far side the the moon.

It’s no surprise, then, that scientists have been dreaming of an observatory on the moon because that years. Equally unsurprising is the fact no together observatory yet exists.

But a current paper—written through Breakthrough Listen funded researchers Eric Michaud, Andrew Siemion, Jamie Drew, and also Pete Worden—makes the case for a SETI (search because that extraterrestrial intelligence) observatory on the moon or in lunar orbit. And notably, they suggest that together a project is, perhaps, because that the an initial time pull close feasibility.

SETI on the far Side

The much side of the moon is suitable place to search for radio signal from other human beings for a few reasons.

The first, as noted, is that exquisite radio silence. Astronomer Phillipe Zarka, quoted by the authors, says, “The far side of the moon throughout the lunar night is the many radio-quiet ar in our neighborhood universe.” and for radio signal of person origin, this is a irreversible condition. The moon is tidally locked, for this reason the much side constantly faces away from Earth.

How quiet is quiet?

According come the authors, an early-1970s NASA orbiter found radio noise from Earth decreased by one to three orders the magnitude as the satellite happen behind the moon. Simulations imply this effect would be also greater on the lunar surface. One study uncovered that close to the crater Daedalus some radio signal from earth would be diminished by as lot as 10 orders of magnitude (10 billion-fold). The only remaining radio interference of human being origin would certainly be from rovers and probes somewhere else in the Solar System—of which over there are, of course, much fewer than in earth orbit.

Added come an setting largely devoid of human radio interference, lunar nights last 2 weeks, allowing for prolonged viewing parties. And also the cherry on top: an observatory top top the moon can detect wavelength in components of the radio spectrum that are blocked by earth ionosphere.

Together, these qualities make the moon a uniquely desirable destination because that SETI—if girlfriend can, in fact, figure out just how to fund and also build an observatory the takes advantage of them.

The record outlines 2 options.

A Lunar Arecibo

The easiest path would be to location a telescope in lunar orbit.

The orbiter would certainly scan the sky for signal from behind the moon—taking advantage of the much side’s radio quiet—and relay data when earth reappears. Loved one to the historically huge costs the spaceflight, together a mission might soon be launched for a pittance. Even better, you’d no run the hazard of a (not unlikely) failed landing attempt.

But one orbiter comes with sacrifices. Monitoring periods would be hrs instead of weeks. And the family member quiet in orbit would be nowhere near the silence on the surface.

An orbiter, then, may pave the way for a much more ambitious project.

For the ideal observations, there’s no better place come be than a crater top top the much side of the moon. The lunar night is long, and also the radio chatter nearly nonexistent. Plus, it’d be feasible to build a gigantic radio telescope there.

The Arecibo Observatory—a radio telescope provided for SETI and made famed by the movie Contact—was developed into a naturally emerging depression in the mountains of Puerto Rico. We might similarly construct a lunar radio telescope in a crater on the moon. However whereas Arecibo’s dish is three football areas wide, a lunar Arecibo could be over three time wider, thanks to the moon’s lower gravity.

NASA newly funded research into two feasible lunar observatories for radio telescopes that would certainly observe the early universe in wavelengths never prior to explored. Among the proposals, the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT), argues robotic rovers can assemble a kilometer-wide radio telescope in the basic of a crater ~ above the far side that the moon, choose a lunar Arecibo. It would certainly be the largest such telescope in existence, capable of exceptionally sensitive observations.

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Image credit: Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay/NASA JPL

Despite its evident advantages, a telescope top top the surface has actually drawbacks too.

Lunar landers are more complex, expensive, and also carry greater risk that failure. The paper also note the telescope would likely need far-reaching power storage since observations would take place during the two-week-long lunar night, once solar panels would be useless. This can cap city hall time, as battery packs are pricey cargo. Also, hidden as it is from Earth’s view, the telescope would require an orbiting satellite come relay observations earlier home.

Still, the authors write, together a mission might be approaching practicality.

Why Now?

Ironically, the factor such lunar observatories could arrive sooner than later on is the same reason SETI might need lock in the first place.

Low-cost satellites and also launch services from the likes of RocketLab and also SpaceX average Earth’s skies are acquiring crowded. SpaceX’s Starlink has alone launched thousands of internet satellites into orbit and also has plans because that thousands more. SETI observations will undoubtedly have to compete with an ext noise in the future.

In parallel, however, those reduced launch costs and also the advent of cheaper, smaller, however still efficient satellites mean sending orbiters and also landers to the moon isn’t the multi-billion-dollar job it was in the 1960s. Indeed, it’ll shortly be possible to send payloads past Earth orbit for tens of millions of dollars. Add in more capable robots to automate construction—such together those in the LCRT proposal—alongside NASA’s cultivation appetite because that lunar exploration, and also there may be room for new projects once deemed impractical.

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“The future the astronomy is going to be in space for the most part,” Siemion said Supercluster. “As access to an are becomes cheaper and much more democratized, astronomy will relocate there and also I think much of that will be done from the lunar surface.”

There’s no telling as soon as (or if) we’ll obtain a far-side SETI observatory, however the find for silence is a worthy cause. It’d it is in a shame to miss ET’s call simply because we can’t listen the phone.