Extraterrestrial Interstellar Beacon - A Broadcast From Outer Space

24 March, 2012 - There could be hundreds, even thousands, of intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way, but not all of them can be classified as interstellar travellers.

Many civilizations might simply lack sufficient technology to travel among the stars. Nevertheless, just like humans other intelligent alien species could seek contact with their galactic neighbors.

Have we already detected such alien signals without being able to identify their true nature?

One way to attract the attention of an advanced alien species is to construct a solar sail beacon, a cosmic lighthouse.

Astronomers think this could be done by taking advantage of the extreme Doppler shifts in the region of extraordinary propulsion to broadcast a civilization's presence to other intelligent species.

Juan Carlos Garcia-Escartin and Pedro Chamorro-Posada of the Universidad de Valladolid, Spain propose a simple beacon based on a solar sail.

"We can launch a solar sail that reflects some interesting cosmic event, like a pulsar. Pulsars can catch the attention of an advanced civilization with an interest in astronomy and have been proposed before as a cosmic common ground when searching for intelligent life, " the researchers write in their scientific paper.

Scientists have on several occasions been confronted with unknown astronomical phenomenon that could suggest signs of extraterrestrial presence.

A mysterious signal coming from a region of space between the constellations Pisces and Aries has been picked up on three different occasions by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico remains until this day unidentified.

Scientists have also noticed spectacular flares and bursts of energy emanating from a weakly magnetised, slowly rotating pulsar. It is believed the that source of the pulsar's power may be hidden deep within its surface. The pulse timing of this object is considered unusual. What kind of phenomenon is related to this object?

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"An alien astronomer would notice two curious features in the reflected light.

The first would be the evident Doppler shift, well beyond what can be expected from natural motion.

The second would be its origin, close to the Sun.

If we were to find such a displaced signal close to a star, we can infer the intentional presence of a cosmic lighthouse.

Moreover, we can add modulation. If we include a rudder in the sail, we can direct the reflected signal in and out any desired stellar system.

We can send alternate on and off pulses to likely candidate planetary systems.

In contrast to a complete ship, the beacon does not need to carry a useful payload and must not necessarily withstand the harsh conditions of deep space travel for a long time. If the beacon is destroyed in the middle of the journey, it still serves its purpose.

The construction of this kind of beacon can be a near term project for Humanity.

Apart from sending a signal to the stars, it would be an ideal test bed for solar propulsion technologies," the two scientists say.

So while searching for extraterrestrial intelligence we should also consider interstellar beacons.

See also: Interstellar Beacons Might One Day Navigate Future Astronauts Across The Universe

Asteroid Mining Operations Could Reveal Intelligent Extraterrestrial Civilizations

The Eyes Of A Future Alien Astronomer - What Will They See?

Alcubierre Warp Drive - A Doomsday Weapon?

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