Question Your World: Is Anyone Else Out There?

Posted: May 31, 2017

From campfire stories of the night sky to knowledge about our ever expanding universe, the cosmos has always fascinated human beings. However, one of the biggest questions still remains unanswered: is anyone else out there?

There are a myriad of people ranging from TV alien enthusiasts to fact-driven scientists that are all pondering the same question. Our place in the universe has changed every time we’ve made new discoveries about the reality of how the natural world works. From a geocentric existence to the latest information on distant galaxies located billions of light-years away, we keep learning more and more about the potentials and possibilities that are yet to be observed. Does that mean they’re actually out there, though?

Scientists like the folks at SETI, Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, are working towards answering those questions as we speak. Every now and then there’s some news that gets them all riled up, like a recent finding from a star system located 94 light-years away.

Russian astronomers ran across a signal in 2015, but kept it quiet thus preventing the global dialogue that could have transpired. Luckily that data was uncovered and brought to the public’s attention a year later. Naturally, the scientists at SETI jumped right on this cosmic anomaly. Here’s what makes this particular data set so interesting. A burst of energy that originates from a star system located 94 light-years away was detected in 2015 . This particular star is about the same size, age, and elemental composition as our sun. Not only that, but it also has a Neptune-sized planet orbiting there.

This means this star system could have just one planet or a variety of them including a smaller terrestrial world perhaps. Even if this is a single planet there are still chances of a moon having the ingredients needed for life. The star and planet are both interesting, but the signal itself is what’s the real bit of brain candy here.

The burst of energy detected was very powerful. To send a signal with such magnitude would require a lot of energy. To send a signal like this in one direction (towards Earth) would take the amount of energy equivalent to all the energy we regularly use here on Earth at any given moment combined! About 50 trillion watts, imagine all the energy needed for all our power plants, cars, houses, and everything else combined together. Clearly, a far more advanced energy-using civilization than we are at the moment. Let’s say the signal didn’t come only to us, but instead was sent in every direction possible. If that’s the case then we’re talking about a civilization vastly more advanced, perhaps one that harnesses a similar concept to the Dyson Ring or the like. That’s some powerful stuff!

So, the big question now is if it’s natural or if this was in fact was an intentional means of communication. Some scientists feel that it’s worth putting the star system on a permanent monitoring status. There’s a very high likelihood that the signal is in fact natural due to natural occurrences like gravitational lensing, where massive objects like stars warp the fabric of space-time enough to concentrate the signal emanating from far behind the object. Regardless, the issue right now is that we just don’t know. More research is needed, along with collaborative work from various astronomy communities to dig deeper into this mysterious signal.

More information on this topic will be discussed at the International Astronomical Congress in Mexico later this month. This is also where Elon Musk is expected to announce his plans for colonizing Mars. Look forward to some exciting news about our place in this massive universe to roll out in the near future!