SETI MONITORING PROMISING SIGNAL 95 LIGHT YEARS AWAYSeptember 4, 2016
There has been a spate of space-related news lately, and I have been delaying commenting about them simply because of more pressing news, but I've decided I have to make some comment about these stories because I believe them to be significant, and because I suspect that in some way they are related to the events here on Earth. If you've been following these stories, they seem to fall into two distinct patterns: (1) talk of new technologies, and (2) stories about the discovery of potential Earth-like planets in nearby solar systems. And of course, I've decided to comment about them simply because I cannot resist the opportunity they provide for high octane speculation.
Consider this story shared by Mr. T.H., a story originating, as you shall discover, in Russia:
The story begins innocently enough:
An international team of scientists from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is investigating mysterious signal spikes emitting from a 6.3-billion-year-old star in the constellation Hercules—95 light years away from Earth. The implications are extraordinary and point to the possibility of a civilization far more advanced than our own.
The unusual signal was originally detected on May 15, 2015, by the Russian Academy of Science-operated RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, Russia, but was kept secret from the international community. Interstellar space reporter Paul Gilster broke the story after the researchers quietly circulated a paper announcing the detection of “a strong signal in the direction of HD164595.” (Emphasis added)
What makes scientists think this might be a signal from an advanced civilization? This is where it gets interesting:
“The signal conceivably fits the profile for an intentional transmission from an extraterrestrial source,” said Alan Boyle, author of The Case for Pluto who reported the story for Geekwire. “In any case, the blip is interesting enough to merit discussion by those who specialize in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.”
The signal’s strength indicates that if it in fact came from a isotropic beacon, the power source would have to be built by a Kardashev Type II civilization. (The Kardashev scale is used to determine the progress of a civilization’s technological development by measuring how much energy was used to transmit an interstellar message.) An ‘Isotropic’ beacon means a communication source emitting a signal with equal power in all directions while promoting signal strength throughout travel.
Before we can do our usual speculative analysis, there's one more paragraph to bear in mind:
Basically, if the signal was beamed out into the galaxy without aim or direction, that would require an enormous amount of power to actually be detected. But what if the signal was beamed specifically at our solar system? Well, that would require less energy and could indicate the presence of a Kardashev Type I civilization—meaning that it could be a highly technological, contemporary society that harnesses the solar energy emitted by its local star, much like our planet does with solar panels. This particular civilization’s social structure is theorized to be completely globalized and interconnected.
Now, I submit that these statements have to be parsed very carefully to see why SETI scientists are so interested, and to see why they might have tried to embargo the story which nonetheless leaked anyway (we'll get back to that leak in a moment).
First of all, by referencing the Kardashev Civilization classification types - Type one requiring the energy output of an entire planet, Type Two requiring the energy output of an entire star, and Type Three requiring the output of an entire galaxy, bot just to communicate but rather, to survive - the implication is that either the signal is isotropic, i.e., going out equally in all directions, or that it is being intentionally beamed in our direction. IN either case, the implication is the signal is relatively strong. And the implication is actually more sensational if, in fact, it comes from the less advanced Type One civilization, for that would mean a specific recipient is intended on the other end, namely, us.
This brings us to our second implication: strong signals in themselves are not significant enough to attract SETI's attention. After all, all sorts of things out there emit "strong signals"; stars, quasars, pulsars and even whole galaxies do so on a regular basis. Our own Sun does. Few, if any, of these attract the attention of groups like SETI for the simple reason that these signals are random in nature. They're noise. For a signal to attract attention of a group like SETI,there has to be an element of regularity and pattern, hallmarks of language, and communication. To be sure, pulsars originally were candidates, because of the regularity of their signals (and of course, Dr. Paul LaViolette has proposed that Pulsars are, in fact, star based communications systems. The trouble here is that the system in question is not a pulsar system, but an ordinary star rather like our own Sun.
So Signal Strength + an implied pattern of possible regularity = potential signal from intelligence.
Which brings us to the leak itself and to our high octane speculation, for it is possible that if one wanted to reveal the existence of such a signal, perhaps the best way to reveal its existence is not via a grand press conference with trumpet fanfares, in which case a certain segment of the population would tend to disbelieve it. But in today's cynical and conspiracy-obsessed world, perhaps the best way to reveal such a thing is to pretend to conceal it, and allow the story to be leaked.
See you on the flip side...