Space

Either Stars are Strange, or 234 Alien Species Are Trying to Contact Us

We are all fascinated by even the slightest sign of a possible existence of alien life outside our planet. That’s why whenever some unexplained, mysterious signal appears on our telescopes, this is one of the first thing that comes to our minds. But according to scientists we’re probably getting ahead of ourselves. However, their skepticism is not a negative thing but more like a balancing act, mostly because we’ve always found a more prosaic reason for whatever signal from space we’re talking about.

A study made by two astronomers from Laval University in Canada, E.F. Borra and E. Tottier, presented some seriously interesting discoveries. Their study was published in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, by the name “Discovery of peculiar periodic spectral modulations in a small fraction of solar type stars”.

Borra and Tottier by using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, analyzed the spectra of 2.5 million stars. Among them they managed to find 234 stars that were producing a weird signal, or “exactly the shape of an ETI signal”.

A portion of the 234 stars that are sources of the pulsed ETI-like signal. Note that all the stars are in the narrow spectral range F2 to K1, very similar to our own Sun. Image: Ermanno F. Borra and Eric Trottier

These 234 stars in the astronomers’ study aren’t random. They’re in the F2 to K1 spectral range which is significant because this is a small range centered around the spectrum of the Sun. So the theory is, if our Sun can have intelligent species living near it, why can’t others do too?

The astronomers had five potential causes of the findings and one of them was of course the potential ETI signals. After some tests, they dismissed some of the options leaving them with option 1 – the Sloan instrument itself and data reduction, or second option – they are in fact a signal from extra-terrestrial intelligence.

This graph shows the number of detected signals by Spectral Type of star. Image: Ermanno F. Borra and Eric Trottier

“Although unlikely, it’s also possible that the signals are due to chemical compositions in a small fraction of galactic halo stars”, the authors state in their paper. Almost every discovery seem unlikely at first but maybe there really is a tiny subset of stars with chemical peculiarities that make them act in this way.

In conclusion, two astronomers have discovered a small number of stars similar to ours that seem to be the source of pulsed signals, same as predicted if a technological society was using powerful lasers to communicate with distant stars.

Even though Borra’s discovery has been ranked as insignificant, further work is already being planned, as the Automated Planet Finder telescope at the Lick Observatory is being prepared for observing some of these 234 stars.


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