The money is being spent on attempts to detect "technosignatures" in space, such as the hypothetical Dyson spheres.
According to various estimates, several advanced civilizations should exist in our galaxy - at least 36
Scientists are trying to figure out if there is intelligent life beyond Earth. This is being done by the researchers of the SETI project or the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. That is, we can find not only biosignatures, such as oxygen and methane, but also technosignatures (radio signals) or even megastructures - artificial objects of gigantic dimensions, such as hypothetical supercomputers the size of a star. Now, according to the Supercluster edition, NASA has started to fund such searches, but prefers not to advertise it.
The history of funding the search for technosignatures is full of ups and downs. In 1993, NASA scrapped the program to search for artificial microwave signals, and at the end of 2019, the agency announced four grants for the search for technosignatures. In November 2020, NASA awarded Anne Marie Cody a grant from its own research center, interested in her idea of studying the whole sky for anomalous objects. To do this, she studies fluctuations in the brightness of stars, which can be influenced not only by spots on luminaries and exoplanets, but also by alien megastructures. Together with her colleagues, she will conduct the first large-scale study of transit technosignatures. This is a pioneering work, both technically and organizationally.
“I'm thrilled that NASA is serious about the search for [extraterrestrial intelligence],” says astronomer David Kipping of Columbia University. He pointed to several reasons at once why NASA changed its position regarding funding the search for other civilizations. This is the financing of the search by a private investor Yuri Milner, who allocated $ 100 million for research of technosignatures for 10 years. Also influenced by a workshop on technosignatures held by NASA in September 2018, and the discovery of an increasing number of exoplanets, including potentially habitable ones. Astronomers have concluded that one in five stars has a potentially habitable planet. As a result, research in astrobiology has become better funded. NASA spends billions of dollars a year on astrobiology.
SETI is looking for signs of technology. But technology is impossible without the development of life. “Searching for technosignatures is astrobiology,” says Kipping.