A Recent spectrographic study of data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey by two scientists from the University of Laval in Quebec, Canada, E.F. Borra and E. Trottier ,has produced some shocking results. It revealed that 234 stars quite similar to our own sun were producing unique light pulses that could, possibly, be extraterrestrial communications. The scientist’s research has been published under the title Discovery of peculiar periodic spectral modulations in a small fraction of solar type stars in the academic journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
WARNING: This article is not a cookie cutter rendition of every other piece on the subject.
Widely reported as a sensational possible breakthrough in the search for extraterrestrial life. It is possibly the strongest indication of a structured signal from another star system ever found. There is much more research to be done and results are only preliminary. It is a purely scientific paper and very hard to read, unless you’re an astronomer, but was covered by many main stream media in typical glancing fashion.
What is much more telling is the original paper by one of the scientists predicting what an alien signal may look like. Written by Ermanno F. Borra in the prestigious Astronomical Journal entitled SEARCHING FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL INTELLIGENCE SIGNALS IN ASTRONOMICAL SPECTRA, INCLUDING EXISTING DATA. It is a very readable paper and is the reason the pulses were detected at all. This is where the story really is. It is highly recommended any casual fan of science read it. Describing what an alien pulsed laser signal may look like, the infrastructure needed and current capabilities of mankind to produce these signals with current technology. In doing so it answers many questions and creates many more.
Without going into the technical terms of the paper, which you can do for yourself, some major points will be examined. An alien world wanting to communicate over a vast distant would realize other intelligent species may be cataloging the stars as well. Therefore the civilization wishing to communicate ( possibly us ) would need a sufficiently powerful laser. This laser would need to be pulsed in such a way by nanoseconds. Sometimes a constant interval between pulses. Sometimes a changing interval between the pulses. Made to look like nothing else in the sky, a mildly advanced civilization would not mistake it in a routine sky survey. This is what was observed in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey data of 234 sun like stars.
Clearly, such a signal in an astronomical source is strange. If detected in a spectrum, the object would obviously be observed again. The ETI obviously also knows this. They may thus make it look even more peculiar by inducing unnatural time variations generated by changing the time between pulses (τ in Equations (1) and (2)) in an artificial sequence. There would then be little doubt that it is an ETI signal.
The paper goes on to describe how powerful of a laser would be needed to send a pulse communication over a reasonable distant. Laser technology would need to be fairly advanced to do this. An example in the paper uses the metric of a 1000 light years and clearly explains we have the current resources do it right now. Such a system could reach one million sun like stars with pulsed light communications. This was proposed in 2004.
For this, we shall use the analysis in Howard et al. (2004), who considered the energy requirements for an ETI trying to communicate with nanosecond optical pulses. They considered the feasibility of interstellar communications with technology available at the time the paper was written. They assumed communications within a 1000 lt-yr diameter region surrounding Earth that would contain about 1 million Sun-like stars. They assumed that a diode-pumped laser similar to the Helios laser designed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for inertial confinement fusion would be used
The example uses the Helios laser designed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for fusion experiments and nuclear stockpile maintenance. Interesting as there is very little mention of this laser to be found. Except on page 182 of Laser: Light of a Million Uses and an old press release from the New Scientist describing it as 10-kilo- joule Helios carbon dioxide laser . Wikipedia has it on a list of fusion experiments but the link titled Helios goes nowhere. Most probably because of its use in nuclear stockpile maintenance and fusion experiments. It is interesting however that it is mentioned as a means of interstellar communication with hardly anything to find on the subject.
It is also interesting to note that for decades The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has been studying laser light propulsion as a means for high thrust to weight launch capability and mid flight satellite readjustment. High intensity lasers would be used to propel craft by igniting a solid concave fuel plate with no need for heavy engines. Another technique is simply reflecting it off special mirrors to make minor alignments of assets already in space.
Consider that lasers are much more powerful than they were in 2004. Advanced satellite communications and even the International Space Station use laser pulse to transmit and receive in high definition. Imagine we have had the technology locked up in secret programs that can admittedly communicate 1000 light years across the universe to possibly one million sun like stars since the late 90s. This does not mean you could Facebook or instant message E.T. because it would take up to 2000 years, depending on the distant, to get a response. It would be a means of just saying to other civilizations that we are here. As they may be doing already and we have the ability to do now. Stephen Hawking recently said if we find alien signals don’t send any back. He must be keenly aware of this type of technology as Hawking has advanced the idea of tiny space probes powered by electromagnetic beams. These could go fast enough to explore interstellar space. Read past the headlines of little green men (even if they exist) and gee whiz Popular Science articles. Ask what is the state of current technology. How far has this technology come and are we sending or own message in a bottle? It is clearly possible.