A new paper published in The Astrophysical Journal suggests using giant lasers to attract aliens to come to planet Earth, Fox News is reporting. The lead author of the study, James Clark, is an MIT graduate student who contemplated the feasibility of such a project. The paper suggests that, theoretically, a giant laser coming from our planet might not immediately clue in aliens that there is life on Earth, but it would certainly intrigue potential extraterrestrials, perhaps motivating them to investigate the light source further.
"This would be a challenging project but not an impossible one," Clark explained. "The kinds of lasers and telescopes that are being built today can produce a detectable signal, so that an astronomer could take one look at our star and immediately see something unusual about its spectrum. I don't know if intelligent creatures around the sun would be their first guess, but it would certainly attract further attention."
The study does admit, however, that the odds of making contact with aliens in the short-term is low. Still, the paper suggests that if technology continues to advance as rapidly as it had been, aliens might be able to contact us in the long-term.
"While the probability of closing a handshake with even a nearby extraterrestrial intelligence is low with current survey methodologies, advances... may reduce the mean-time-to-handshake to decades or centuries..." the abstract reads in part.
The paper goes on to say that a laser approximately one or two megawatts in strength -- and sent out by a telescope at least 100 feet in length -- could potentially be seen as far as 20,000 light years away. What happens after the aliens notice the laser? Clark has a plan for that, too.
"If we were to successfully close a handshake and start to communicate, we could flash a message, at a data rate of about a few hundred bits per second, which would get there in just a few years," Clark said.
While the possibility is fun to think about, there are some precautions that need to be considered before taking on such a massive project. If the laser beam is powerful enough for aliens to notice, it is certainly strong enough to damage one's eyesight. Clark said that the light would have to be so strong that, even if it isn't visible, humans could be blinded by looking directly at it. The paper suggests that the laser would have to have the flux density of about 800 watts of power per square meter, which makes it almost as bright as the sun.
"If you wanted to build this thing on the far side of the moon where no one's living or orbiting much, then that could be a safer place for it," Clark said. "In general, this was a feasibility study. Whether or not this is a good idea, that's a discussion for future work."