The Vox website has just published an excellent guide detailing the five steps we need to take if we’re going to find life on other planets:
- Find a star
- Find a planet
- Find the right kind of planet
- Analyze the planet’s atmosphere
- Search for biosignatures
The good news is that we’re already on step three, the bad news is that steps four and five are the most difficult and will likely not be possible until the next generation of telescopes is online.
Of course, there is one additional step to take if we’re going to find intelligent life:
6. Search for signs of intelligent agency
If, when analyzing a planet’s atmosphere, we find traces of pollutants that have no natural explanation, it could be indicative of some form of intelligence living there. Alternatively, if the planet is close enough, our largest radio telescopes can be trained upon it on the off-chance we might overhear something interesting.
It’s a long shot, but since we’re not going anywhere soon, our only realistic hope of finding intelligent alien life in the near future is to continue searching from afar.