High-powered lasers could send bat signal to alien astronomers

James Marshall
November 10, 2018

"I don't know if intelligent creatures around the sun would be their first guess, but it would certainly attract further attention", said Clark in a press release.

- A telescope and infrared laser design would be integrated.

This would create a beacon that can be distinguished from the light of the sun and can be detected by alien astronomers from a neighboring star system that might also be looking for signs of life in the universe. Clark emphasizes that if this laser be seen by alien astronomers, they can use the same technology to communicate with the inhabitants of the Earth. This is not a far-fetched idea as well but the focus of a study conducted by researchers from MIT have imagined thata powerful laser installed on our planet could serve as a beacon to guide the aliens in the space and inform them of our position.

The "porch light" could be particularly useful to attract any neighborly alien astronomers living close by - perhaps around Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth, or TRAPPIST-1, the star located some 40 light-years away that's host to seven exoplanets, three of which are potentially habitable.

"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 added in the statement. This would produce a beam with a staggering range of 20,000 light years. He compares it to the Air Force's Airborne Laser program, known as the YAL-1, a prototype from the Reagan era which consisted of a 747 with a giant laser grafted onto the nose, meant to shoot down ballistic missiles.

Assuming alien astronomers have comparable telescopes, they would need to be in the emission's exact line of sight which, statistically speaking, is pretty unlikely.

Such a powerful beam could also present a few safety and technology problems for any biological or digital eyes that happen to look directly at it. Clark says the beam wouldn't be visible but could still conceivably damage people's vision inadvertently and could scramble cameras aboard orbiting spacecraft that pass through it. MIT warns that the "beam would produce a flux density of about 800 watts of power per square meter, which is approaching that of the sun, which generates about 1,300 watts per square meter". A safer location than Earth would be on the far side of the moon.

Because much of the resistance from the scientific community about ideas like these involve skepticism regarding feasibility, Clark and his team set out the explore ways in which current technology can be combined to facilitate communication. There is legitimate concern that Earth's resources could be too tempting to resist, and that we might invite our own extinction by luring extraterrestrials to our neck of the woods.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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