MIT says existing laser tech could attract alien astronomers

  • MIT says existing laser tech could attract alien astronomers

MIT says existing laser tech could attract alien astronomers

The study notes that the massive 1-2 megawatt laser comes with its own safety issues. As a result, you will create a beam of infrared light that will be strong enough to stand out on the background of solar energy.

According to the scientist, this beam can be seen by alien astronomers who study in our region of the milky Way, especially if they are in nearby systems, such as the planets orbiting Proxima Centauri.

"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", explains James Clark, MIT physicist, and study author. The signal should be easy to detect from as far away as 20,000 light years.

Firing a megawatt laser into space with the goal of attracting alien attention is technologically feasible, according to a new MIT study.

Of course several messages intended for potential aliens (and countless not intended for them) have been beamed into space since the advent of broadcasting technology, majority encoded in radio waves, but none have been sent using super high-powered lasers. MIT researchers claim that if an alien astronomer was searching the heavens from TRAPPIST-1, the nearest star to Earth with potentially habitable planets, the massive laser could be used to send a brief message in the form of pulses similar to Morse code. Either setup, he estimated, could produce a generally detectable signal from up to 20,000 light-years away. According to Clark, the proposed laser's power is equivalent to that of the U.S. Air Force's Airborne Laser, a now-retired mechanism created to shoot ballistic missiles out of the sky - a far cry from your everyday laser.

Clark's study shows that building this magnified laser is possible and that it could serve as a signal to alien life. A telescope of that size does not now exist but there are plans to build one in Chile.

"We can't put as much power as the sun produces into a laser - that's just not practical - but a laser produces all of its power in one wavelength, a very narrow part of the spectrum, so the way that it's detectable is not that it's more powerful than the sun, but that it's very distinct from the sun", Clark said. It could also interfere with spacecraft cameras as they pass by the infrared signal. This beam would have a flux density of about 800 watts per square meter, close to the sun's 1300 watts per square meter flux density.

"Should we be attracting extraterrestrial attention?" "However, as the infrared spectra of exoplanets are studied for traces of gases that indicate the viability of life, and as full-sky surveys attain greater coverage and become more rapid, we can be more certain that, if phoning, we will detect it".