Research

Laser technology could be used to attract attention from aliens

Laser technology could be used to attract attention from aliens

The "porch light" could be particularly useful to attract any neighborly alien astronomers living close by - perhaps around Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth, or TRAPPIST-1, the star located some 40 light-years away that's host to seven exoplanets, three of which are potentially habitable.

"I wanted to see if I could take the kinds of telescopes and lasers that we're building today, and make a detectable beacon out of them", Clark said in a press release. MIT has a different idea, and its concept is to use existing laser tech to create a beacon that could attract any advanced extraterrestrial civilizations that are actively searching for life in the universe themselves.

If alien astronomers DID spot the signal, we could also use it to send a message in Morse Code, says MIT scientist James Clark.

The research suggests that a laser, 1 to 2 megawatts in strength and coming from a telescope at least 100 feet in length, aimed into space, could get the attention of civilizations as far as 20,000 light years from Earth. Either setup, he estimated, could produce a generally detectable signal from up to 20,000 light-years away.

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On the other hand, they are aware that the probability of establishing a contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence is small, but does encourage researchers in SETI projects (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), to support the development of the laser technology with the aim that one day we can squeeze a hand grip to aliens, hidden somewhere above our heads! He compares it to the Air Force's Airborne Laser program, known as the YAL-1, a prototype from the Reagan era which consisted of a 747 with a giant laser grafted onto the nose, meant to shoot down ballistic missiles. The 30-meter telescope would be much larger than any we now have as the trend is toward building multiple smaller observatories.

"This would be a challenging project but not an impossible one", he stated. The beacon could also damage any cameras onboard any spacecraft that happens to pass in its path. While Earth now has the technology to create the beacon, the beam would produce 800 watts of power per square meter that would damage a person's vision.

Clark says that if the tables were turned, we would be able to detect a signal sent from nearby stars but only if our telescopes were pointed directly towards the source, which would take an huge amount of luck.

"It is vanishingly unlikely that a telescope survey would actually observe an extraterrestrial laser, unless we restrict our survey to the very nearest stars", Clark says. "However, as the infrared spectra of exoplanets are studied for traces of gases that indicate the viability of life, and as full-sky surveys attain greater coverage and become more rapid, we can be more certain that, if E.T.is phoning, we will detect it".