The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is investigating a “strong signal” from a star that is known to have at least one planet in its orbit, leading at least one scientist to consider the possibility that the signal is of intelligent origin, Business & Tech Observer is reporting.
The star, lovingly named HD 164595, is about 95 light-years from Earth, and can be found in the constellation Hercules. One known exoplanet (an exoplanet is a planet outside of our own solar system) is known to orbit the star; that planet has been described as a “warm Neptune,” meaning it’s not likely to be able to support life. But scientists aren’t discounting the possibility that there may be more planets orbiting the star, including one or more that may support life.
And now they’re getting a signal from that star that appears, to some observers, to be intelligent in origin.
The signal was first picked up by a Russian telescope (Russian Academy of Science-operated RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, Russia, specifically) back in 2015, but was kept quiet from international scientists until astronomer Paul Glister broke the story.
An international team of researchers has announced the detection of “a strong signal in the direction of HD164595” … pic.twitter.com/jbTHOQxUcd
— ISYWW (@sureyouwere) August 28, 2016
The signal has astronomers — and SETI — interested because it’s so strong. Its strength suggests that it has been artificially amplified. To understand how strongly it’s been amplified, you have to understand the so-called Kardashev Scale, as explained by the Daily Mail. Essentially, a hypothetical Kardashev I civilization is technologically advanced enough to harness and store the energy that reaches it from its sun; a Kardashev II civilization can use all of the energy from its sun to its own advantage; are Kardashev III civilization is capable of using the energy from all of the stars in its galaxy. Needless to say, Earth doesn’t appear on the Kardashev scale.
If the signal coming from Hercules is of intelligent origin, it would have to come from a civilization somewhere on the Kardashev scale, says astronomer and author Alan Boyle.
“The signal conceivably fits the profile for an intentional transmission from an extraterrestrial source… In any case, the blip is interesting enough to merit discussion by those who specialize in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.”
— Maxime Duprez (@maximaxoo) July 7, 2016
Specifically, if the signal were beamed directly and deliberately toward Earth, the amount of energy necessary to make that happen means that the civilization behind it would have to be Kardashev I at least. If it were broadcast into space in all directions, with no specific target in mind, the civilization behind it would have to be Kardashev II.
To be fair, the idea that the Herculean star is emitting a signal of intelligent origin may be more “wishful thinking” and less “scientific fact.” There are, of course, natural explanations for the signal, including the possibility that of “microlensing” — that is, the star’s gravity strengthens and focuses other signals.
Regardless, Glister and other astronomers think the signal, at the very least, deserves further study, according to Ars Technica.
“No one is claiming that this is the work of an extraterrestrial civilization, but it is certainly worth further study… the signal is provocative enough that the [Russian] researchers are calling for permanent monitoring of this target.”
And in fact, that permanent monitoring may begin happening sooner rather than later. In fact, astronomers have already devoted to telescope arrays — the Allen Telescope Array in northern California and the Boquete Optical SETI Observatory in Panama — to taking a look at the star tonight.
Meanwhile, an international team of astronomers and scientists plan to discuss the signal at the upcoming 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, on September 27.
Do you believe the “strong signal” coming from the constellation Hercules is a sign of extraterrestrial intelligence?
[Image via Shutterstock/sdecoret]