The SGL project has the potential to discover, for the first time in the history of humanity, an extraterrestrial civilization.

Imagine a press release, issued in the year 2063, brought to us courtesy of the TARDIS.

Rocket Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, New California Republic; May 18, 2063.
For Immediate Release.

Confirmation of industrial activity on exoplanet EP-431

The exoplanet EP-431, 73 light years from the Earth, was discovered in 2024 and was immediately recognized as a potentially Earth-like planet with the capacity to bear life. It became the primary target of investigation of the Solar Gravitational Lens (SGL) probe of the space agency NASA of the former United States of America. The probe was launched in 2034, shortly before the start of the Second American Civil War. It was designed for a mostly autonomous journey to the outer solar system, which is how it survived the turbulent years of the war and the post-war period. In 2055, the revived RPL received a mandate from the newly independent NCR to reacquire contact with deep space assets such as the SGL probe, which turned out to be healthy, still fully capable of carrying out its intended mission.

Managed by RPL, the SGL probe arrived at the Sun's focal region in 2059 and began its planned observational campaign. The data it communicated back to the Earth in the past four years made it possible to build an increasingly detailed image of EP-431 and perform spectral analysis of its surface and atmosphere.

In a study published today in the journal Science, RPL researchers present their latest findings: the unmistakable presence of pollutants in the atmosphere of EP-431, including nitrous oxides and sulfur oxides, at levels consistent with high planetwide industrial activity.

At a press conference this morning, RPL Administrator Nick Duverte characterized this as the "most momentous discovery in the history of humankind," confirmation that human civilization is not unique in the universe. He also praised the work of a past generation of scientists who made the SGL probe possible, in particular the pioneering theoretical work of S. Turyshev and V. Toth, who laid down the fundamentals of SGL science, and who, incidentally, would both celebrate their 100th birthday this year.

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