Scientists have suggested that aliens may be waiting for a cosmic version of “noon” to send us their signals.
In the new study, the researchers looked for technological signs of aliens at times when exoplanets pass directly in front of their suns from Earth’s perspective. These moments could be the perfect chance for the alien world to send a signal to earthlings in an attempt to make contact.
“Exoplanetary transits are special because they can be calculated by us on Earth, as observers, and by any potential technological species in the exoplanetary system itself, as transmitters,” study leader Sophia Sheikh said. (will open in a new tab), Research Fellow in Radio Astronomy at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI). Thus, these transits represent a predictable and repetitive time during which ETs can think about sending messages and Earthlings can expect to receive them.
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“This strategy helps us narrow down the huge question of where and when to look for a message in the vast expanses of space,” Sheikh told Live Science in an email.
A new study published Dec. 9 on the preprint site arXiv. (will open in a new tab) and scheduled for a peer-reviewed publication in The Astronomical Journal found no evidence of chatty aliens. But in the course of the study, only a dozen distant planets were studied. In the future, they plan to search further with various telescopes.
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Ever since the invention of radio technology in the late 19th century, the Earth has missed transmissions into space—and occasionally, as in the famous 1974 Arecibo Message. (will open in a new tab), deliberately sent them in the hope of contacting any sentient alien who might be eavesdropping. Hoping that intelligent alien civilizations may also be transmitting technological signals or technosignals, the researchers are also scanning the galaxy for radio waves. (will open in a new tab) it could be related to alien technology.
But the galaxy is big, so the key question is where to look. The Sheik and her team decided to eavesdrop on distant exoplanets as they pass in front of their suns, at the so-called “Schelling point” – a solution to a problem that two people are prone to by default if they don’t communicate. together. In other words, the moment of a planetary transit seems like a logical moment to connect from both transmitter and receiver perspectives.
Sheikh and her colleagues used the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia to search for radio signals from 12 exoplanets that could be seen transiting during a short window in March 2018. They detected a lot of radio signals – almost 34,000 in fact – but 99.6%. of them can be immediately discarded as interference with the Earth. A group of trained civilian scientists carried out work to study the signals.
In the end it was determined that all but two of the signals were due to interference. The remaining two, a pair of short bursts from Kepler-1332b and Kepler-842b – potentially rocky planets larger than Earth – were deemed worthy of further observation. However, according to Sheikh, these two messages are almost certainly related to interference and are not real messages.
Still, she said, the study was proof that the search method could work. The researchers plan to make more observations in the future with the Allen Telescope Array at the SETI Institute in California.
Originally published on LiveScience.com (will open in a new tab).