Scientists at the Arizona State University have programmed their computers to scan millions of snaps of the lunar surface to look for signs that aliens might have landed there.
After all, if you have defeated the problems of speed of light travel and come all that way to see the Earth the first place you are going to put your landing gear down is going to be an orbiting lump of cold rock . The next thing you will do is go and scare some brain dead American farmer by giving him an anal probe.
But Professor Paul Davies and Robert Wagner at Arizona State University claim that passing extraterrestrials might have left messages, scientific instruments, heaps of rubbish or evidence of mining on the dusty lunar surface that could be spotted by human telescopes and orbiting spacecraft.
According to the journal Acta Astronautica, which we get for the Spot the Quark competition the pair admit that there is only a tiny probability that alien technology would have left traces on the moon, but since it is closer we might as well have a look.
It is also cheaper to scan lots of pictures rather than use expensive radio telescopes.
The scientists are using Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has mapped a quarter of the moon’s surface in high resolution since mid-2009. These images have also spotted the Apollo landing sites and all of the Nasa and Soviet unmanned probes.
They have developed software to search for strange-looking features, such as the sharp lines of solar panels, or the dust-covered contours of quarries or domed buildings. Because the moon is geologically inactive they might be visible millions of years after they were built.
Alien life might once have set up a lunar base in the underground networks of lava tubes beneath the moon’s dark, basaltic plains, and perhaps have left rubbish when they departed. “The same factors that make lava tubes attractive as a habitat imply that any artefacts left behind would endure almost indefinitely, undamaged and unburied,” the scientists write.
Quite why any alien civilisation would bother is not a question Wagner and Davies have answered.