Signals From Aliens?

Strange messages received on Earth could be leakage from a huge light-powered spaceship.

An artist's illustration of a light-sail powered by a radio beam (red) generated on the surface of a planet. The leakage from such beams as they sweep across the sky would appear as Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), similar to the new population of sources that was discovered recently at cosmological distances.

For years, scientists have studied the possibility of extraterrestrial life with no success, but has proof just fallen into our laps? Newly published research suggests we just may not be alone out here on our little rock. Mysterious phenomena called fast radio bursts could very well be evidence of advanced alien technology. We're talking PLANET- SIZED transmitters powering some sort of interstellar probes in galaxies far, far, away. 

"Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances, and we haven't identified a possible natural source with any confidence," said theorist Avi Loeb of the Harvard- Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "An artificial origin is extremely plausible."

Fast radio bursts (for those who aren't sure) are exactly what you would assume: milisecond-long flashes of radio ejection. First stumbled upon in 2007, as little as two dozen have been detected by colossal radio telescopes like the Parkes Observatory in Australia or the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. They are inferred to originate from distant galaxies, billions of light-years away. 

According to Loeb and his co-author Manasvi Lingam at Harvard University, creating a radio transmitter strong enough to be detectable across billions of lightyears if the transmitter were solar powered, is within the realm of possibility according to the laws of physics, however such a huge project would greatly surpass our current technology. 

So why build a ship this vast? Lingam and Loeb argue that the most realistic theoretical use of this much power would be moving interstellar light sails. The power involved would be enough to push at least a million tons, or about 25,000 sperm whales.

"That's big enough to carry living passengers across interstellar or even intergalactic distances," added Lingam.

A light sail works a lot like a sailing boat; the light from the sun has to be  continuously beaming onto the sail, like wind would need to be constantly blowing to give momentum to the boat. We would register only a brief moment of this energy because the sails or alternate planet would be momentarily moving parallel to Earth. Even though the multiple beams have been detected, they cannot be explained by an cataclysmic astrophysical events. Which actually might point more towards the possibility of extraterrestrial life.  

Loeb finished with this quote regarding his speculations. "Science isn't a matter of belief, it's a matter of evidence. Decoding what's likely ahead of time limits the possibilities. It's worth putting ideas out there and letting the data be the judge".

Sources:

  1. Loeb, Avi "The Astrophysical Journal Letters"  2017
  2. Watzke, Megan "Could Fast Radio Bursts Be Powering Alien Probes?" 
  3. Harvard-Smithsonian Center For Astrophysics 2017, March 9

Now Reading
Signals From Aliens?
Read Next
Brutalist Stories #13