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Since the first use of electric lamps in the 19th century, society hasn’t looked back. Homes and streets are lit at all hours so that people can go about their business when they’d once have been asleep. Besides the obvious benefits to societies and the economy, there’s growing awareness of the negative impact of artificial light.

Light pollution has been blamed for wasting energy, disrupting wildlife behaviour and harming mental health. One aspect has avoided the spotlight though. Namely, that light not only allows one to see, but also to be seen. This could well attract unwelcome attention – and not just from moths.

The innate curiosity of humans and our growing knowledge of the universe in which we live have led us inexorably to a question. Do civilisations exist on planets other than Earth? Scientists now believe that there are many places in the universe which might harbour simple lifeforms such as bacteria.

What is more speculative is the notion that such extraterrestrial life could have become technologically advanced, perhaps even well beyond our capacity. This idea has captured the imagination of the general public, giving birth to a rich collection of science fiction literature and blockbuster films. But it has also received serious attention from scientists, who have thought of ways to find and possibly contact these alien species.

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Category: Science