A future initiative could enable thousands to scan images of the moon for signs of anomalous objects.
The plan, which is being championed by SETI researcher and physicist Paul Davies, would be to use crowdsourcing to help analyze thousands of high resolution images taken of the lunar surface by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The target would be anything anomalous that could potentially indicate that an advanced extraterrestrial civilization had once visited the moon at some point in its 4.5 billion year history.
“In searching for artifacts, one is looking for ‘something fishy’,” said Davies. “But ‘fishiness’ requires a human decision in advance about a signature of artificiality. There are some simple examples, like right angle edges. But we have little idea what million year-old technology might look like.”
The ambitious and somewhat unorthodox idea could also serve an additional purpose by helping scientists look for signs of important geological features.
“Professional astronomers sometimes suffer from the tendency to discount anything other than our expected signal as instrumental noise or some kind of interference,” said research astronomer Andrew Siemion. “When identifying the unexpected, the eye of an amateur citizen scientist can be just as effective, if not more so, than that of a conditioned professional.”