Scientists have identified 234 stars that are emitting signals that are consistent with signals that would be produced by an intelligent alien civilization trying to make contact, Universe Today is reporting.
Two astronomers from Canada’s Laval University, E.F. Borra and E. Trottier, have published a paper lovingly titled “Discovery of peculiar periodic spectral modulations in a small fraction of solar type stars,” that crunches some numbers and concludes that, well, they’ve stumbled upon something interesting, to say the least. Basically, they’ve found a signal that seems to look like it was produced by an intelligent life form.
Now, before you get too excited, let’s sort through all of the disclaimers. The data is preliminary. It hasn’t been through the peer-review process. There could be a more rational explanation for the “alien signal” that just hasn’t been figured out yet. And most importantly, scientists are loathe to jump to conclusions, especially when it comes to something as outrageous as the possibility of alien life.
Nevertheless, what they found certainly raises the possibility, however remote, that they’ve stumbled upon an alien signal.
Looking at data gathered from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Borra and Trottier looked at the spectra – that is, the patterns of light emitted – from 2.5 million stars. 234 of those stars (an admittedly tiny percentage) emitted a puzzling signal. Without getting too deep into the data, in essence, they found that these stars sent pulses of light that were interrupted by a constant time interval. In other words, the light signals coming from the stars came in consistent bursts. The signals, the astronomers say, “have exactly the shape of an [Extraterrstrial Intelligence] signal.”
Even more exciting is that the stars are “overwhelmingly in the F2 to K1 spectral range.” What that means to non-astronomers is the stars emit a light pattern that is similar to that of our own Sun. And our own Sun is the only star in the universe known conclusively to have intelligent life living on a rock in its orbit.
Of course, as in all things involving science, skepticism must rule the day. And Borra and Trottier themselves admit that concluding they’ve found alien signals is a huge logical leap, to say nothing of the fact that, if true, their findings would turn everything we know about astronomy on its head.
The two astronomers have offered up some other possibilities – other than alien intelligence, that is – to explain why they’re getting such strange signals. The most mundane explanation is that they’ve simply gotten bad data from their telescopes. Another one is that the stars have some unique chemical composition – something not yet seen in the universe – that causes them to emit light that observers on Earth experience as coming in short bursts.
“Although unlikely, there is also a possibility that the signals are due to highly peculiar chemical compositions in a small fraction of galactic halo stars.”
Still, they admit, further research is necessary.
“…At this stage, this hypothesis needs to be confirmed with further work.”
Borra and Trottier’s peers in the astronomical community aren’t so quick to jump to the conclusion that the Canadian researchers have uncovered an alien signal. Remarks from other scientists on the astronomers’ paper aren’t that promising. Referencing the Rio Scale (which astronomers use to determine how significant and promising a possible indication of extraterrestrial intelligence might be), Borra & Trottier’s work has been given a score of “Zero to One.” In other words, other scientists aren’t convinced that an alien signal has been discovered.
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