Seven places in the galaxy where we might, find extraterrestrial life

Monday, 3 April, 2017

Seven places in the universe, or more the point, Milky Way galaxy, where alien life may exist. Three of these places are within the solar system. Another is about four light years away, and another two have been the subject of much media interest in recent times. One place, the seventh one, I’d not heard of until now.

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Sightings, or photos, of people before being abducted by aliens?

Monday, 6 February, 2017

Artwork by Juan Osorno

Sightings, a fascinating, if spooky, series of photos, drawings, and brief narratives, by Colombian artist Juan Osorno.

So, are the stories true? The ones about the people appearing in some of the photos – that also happen to depict an obscure, indistinct, saucer shaped object hovering ominously in the sky nearby – who disappeared soon after?

You know what they say, the truth is out there.

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Von Neumann Machines may be the emissaries of extraterrestrials

Thursday, 6 October, 2016

A Von Neumann Machine is more like an entity, an artificially intelligent device, that is capable of self-replication. They could serve all sorts of purposes, and we may one day use them to explore and colonise the galaxy.

It is also possible they may already be in use, right now, by other, more advanced alien civilisations. A bunch of these things might be making their way towards us, as I write this. Let’s hope not, things may not end well if they do show up.

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Is there life on Proxima b? Is there extraterrestrial life anywhere?

Friday, 26 August, 2016

It’s official. Apparently. It wasn’t on Tuesday, though. The existence of an exoplanet, known as Proxima b, that is located within the habitable zone of the Proxima Centauri solar system, that is situated about four light years from Earth.

So, might there be life of some sort there? For that matter, might there be life anywhere, beyond our solar system? Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer at SETI Research, discusses the possibility.

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Are aliens trying to extinguish a star so we can’t see them?

Thursday, 11 August, 2016

Tabby’s Star, or KIC 8462852, to use its Kepler Input Catalog title, has been making headlines in recent months, on account of mysterious fluctuations in its brightness. Explanations have varied. Some astronomers think a swarm of comets orbit the star, dimming its light.

Others have suggested a Dyson Sphere, a large, artificial, structure that harnesses a star’s energy, may be present. Something that would point to the presence of extraterrestrial life. Further recent research into the star’s unusual behaviour, concludes that yes, the star is acting strangely, but still no reason is forthcoming.

Michael Byrne, writing for Motherboard, may have stumbled upon the answer, though. An alien intelligence is, you see, trying to extinguish the star:

Knowing that aliens are succeeding in quenching KIC 8462852 at a rate of approximately .34 percent per year, we have to ask why they are shutting down a primary energy source. The obvious answer is that they’ve realized that we Earthlings are on to them and are reentering this dimension via a sort of astroengineered “death star” portal-vessel to deal with the perceived threat (us!), but given that KIC 12557548’s distance from Earth is over 2,000 light-years, we have to ask how they would even know? How aliens determined that they were being observed by humans before humans even had telescopes or cars will without a doubt be the astrophysical mystery of the coming decades.

Remember, you heard it here first.

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The misunderstood Fermi Paradox, ET may indeed be out there…

Wednesday, 3 February, 2016

I make mention of the Fermi Paradox from time to time, and possibly it may be a misunderstood concept. Enrico Fermi, Italian physicist, who died in 1954, is reputed to have said that if intelligent extraterrestrial life did indeed exist, it would have long ago manifested itself in some way.

Instead, and despite living in a galaxy potentially teeming with life-friendly planets, there is no sign, whatsoever, of anyone else. Now it turns out that Fermi may have been wondering about the feasibility of interstellar travel, rather than discounting the presence of extraterrestrial life, according to the accounts of three people who know him well:

Both York and Teller seemed to think Fermi was questioning the feasibility of interstellar travel – nobody thought he was questioning the possible existence of extraterrestrial civilizations. So the so-called Fermi paradox – which does question the existence of E.T. – misrepresents Fermi’s views. Fermi’s skepticism about interstellar travel is not surprising, because in 1950 rockets had not yet reached orbit, much less another planet or star.

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The best way to investigate UFOs, according to the CIA

Wednesday, 27 January, 2016

US intelligence agency the CIA had a keen interest in investigating would-be UFO activity, that was particularly rampant during the middle of the twentieth century, and recently published a summary of what they learned as a result of their earlier inquiries.

Rather than thinking extraterrestrial life was responsible for the strange flying objects that people had reported seeing however, the agency was more concerned that the Soviet Union was behind whatever was happening.

The CIA’s concern over UFOs was substantial until the early 1950s because of the potential threat to national security from these unidentified flying objects. Most officials did not believe the sightings were extraterrestrial in origin; they were instead concerned the UFOs might be new Soviet weapons.

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What has caused star KIC 8462852 to dim? Not comets, that’s for sure

Wednesday, 20 January, 2016

KIC 8462852, a star located about fifteen hundred light years from Earth, made headlines last year after inexplicable variations in its brightness were noticed. It was speculated that something big, much, much bigger than even a Jupiter size planet was responsible, and people began thinking alien megastructures might account for the phenomenon.

Astronomers shied away from making such a conclusion, and insisted there was a natural explanation, such as comets, although that, as it turns out, was a big ask:

Schaefer saw the same century-long dimming in his manual readings, and calculated that it would require 648,000 comets, each 200 kilometres wide, to have passed by the star – completely implausible, he says. “The comet-family idea was reasonably put forth as the best of the proposals, even while acknowledging that they all were a poor lot,” he says. “But now we have a refutation of the idea, and indeed, of all published ideas.”

So, KIC 8462852’s brightness has decreased by twenty percent over a one hundred year period, and to date there is way to account for it.

Is it too early to say that this is starting to become interesting?

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KIC 8462852, Dyson spheres, intelligent extraterrestrials, and us

Monday, 19 October, 2015

Hanging about waiting for extraterrestrials to send word they exist, and are keen to hear from us, may be a drawn out process. That’s not to say anyone has been sitting around waiting for something to happen of course, efforts to detect intelligent life elsewhere are decades old.

Aside from scouring the cosmos with our radio telescopes, listening out for radio signals that may be of alien origin, there are other ways to identify would-be extraterrestrial civilisations, one of which, spotting so-called Dyson spheres, has set tongues wagging in the last week.

KIC 8462852, a too faint to be seen star about fifteen hundred light years away from Earth, has been the subject of said chatter, and subsequently rampant speculation, on account of apparent variances in its brightness, that suggest a very large object may be nearby.

A most mysterious star

Detecting such fluctuations is one method astronomers use to ascertain whether a star hosts planets, as even the smallest planetary body can reduce a star’s brightness, albeit by the merest fraction, as it transits, or passes in front of the star, relative to an Earth based observer.

Whatever might be floating around KIC 8462852 however is far bigger, a planet the size of Jupiter for instance would be a but a speck in comparison. That rules out planets alone as a source of the variation. Another nearby star is also out of the question, as it would surely be visible.

So far other naturally occurring phenomena, including asteroids, comets, and Oort cloud particles, have been eliminated, thus leaving only one possibility. The super-massive object, whatever it is, must be artificial, or in other words, is the artifact of an extraterrestrial civilisation.

The great solar panel in the sky

A Dyson sphere is a mega-structure that an advanced race of aliens might build around a star, that acts as a massive solar panel cluster, and sates the growing energy demands of such a civilisation, is being mooted as a possible explanation for KIC 8462852’s brightness anomaly.

It’s quite a thought, isn’t it? An advanced extraterrestrial race may be a mere fifteen hundred light years distant. It’s enough to rouse all manner of feelings of awe and hope. Scientists however remain far more circumspect, and many feel that the cause is somehow natural.

Efforts are afoot to take a closer look at KIC 8462852, and astronomers are hoping to point a radio telescope at the fluctuating star, to see if any evidence of intelligent life is to be found. Time will tell. It’s a little too soon to raise your hopes, or fears, as the case may be though.

We can see them, but can they see us?

Should the prospect of an advanced extraterrestrial civilisation residing on what is effectively – in a manner of speaking – our doorstep, be unsettling, I would think there is little to worry about. We’re too primitive to be detected. But not so backward that we may have seen them.

Not even the signals from our radio and television shows are likely to give us away. The further they push out into space, the weaker they become. At fifteen hundred light years, they’d be virtually indistinguishable from the background noise of the galaxy. Once they even arrive.

Doubtless any KIC 8462852 based aliens would be aware of the Sun, and that it hosts at least one planet within its habitable zone, that is possibly home to basic life forms. Who haven’t however constructed their own Dyson sphere. Being so unsophisticated may just be an advantage then.

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If extraterrestrials talk to us, how will we understand them?

Monday, 31 August, 2015

There are still some ancient languages on Earth that linguists are still struggling to understand, so how would we fare if an alien intelligence tried to contact us? How might we ever make sense of what they were saying?

Yet, any carefully thought-out message sent to us may be composed in a way that we might be able to comprehend, without too much difficulty:

“If an advanced civilization did want to communicate with us, they would probably choose to base their communication on something we have in common, such as the fact that we live in the same physical universe,” says Siemion. “They might use the properties of astrophysical objects, like pulsars, quasars or the shape of our galaxy, as a first step at teaching us their language.”

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