Seeing the Earth through alien eyes
Taken from the May 2022 issue of Physics World, where it appeared under the headline "The Earth through alien eyes"
Members of the Institute of Physics can enjoy the full issue via the Physics World app.
Aliens spying on us from across interstellar space is a classic trope of science fiction
But working out what those extraterrestrials might see if they pointed their telescopes at us could help in our quest for finding life on distant Earth-like planets
"No one would have thought in the closing years of the nineteenth century that intelligences bigger than man's were watching our earth intently and closely."
The terrible Martians conquer our world, so begins H G Wells' classic 1897 novel The War of the Worlds
Despite the fact that the creatures die after being exposed to viruses against which they have no defence, aliens spying on Earth is a popular plot in science fiction
Extraterrestrials who had discreetly monitored Earth's evolution for millions of years from beyond interstellar space
before invading and becoming our overlords – are described in Arthur C Clarke's novel Childhood's End.
In actuality, it is we humans who have been searching for extraterrestrial life. Astronomers have discovered about 5000 planets orbiting stars other than our own
And the nature of our extraterrestrial voyeurism is changing. We aim to characterise these alien exoplanets in addition to identifying and cataloguing them.
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