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Allen Telescope Array Looking for Signals From Candidate Alien Megastructure

Allen Telescope Array Looking for Signals From Candidate Alien Megastructure

by Giulio PriscoOctober 22, 2015

Scientists and SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) enthusiasts are speculating on the possible presence of an alien super-civilization around the star KIC 8462852, located in the constellation Cygnus at approximately 1,481 light years from the Earth. Now, SETI scientists have started using the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) to hunt for signals from the star, reports.

The first indications of suggestive evidence for the presence of an alien super-civilization around a distant star, reported by Hacked a few days ago, have gone viral on the Internet and quickly resulted in ambitious search projects.

The Allen Telescope Array (ATA) is a system of radio dishes located at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, northeast of San Francisco. Initially developed as a joint effort between the SETI Institute and the Radio Astronomy Laboratory (RAL) at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkley) with more than $30 million funding from billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the facility is now managed by SRI International.

The odd behavior of the star’s luminosity was discovered by Planet Hunters, a citizen science program launched at Yale University in 2010. Using data from the Kepler Space Telescope, the citizen scientists found that the brightness of KIC 8462852 changes in time with 20 percent variations, much more than it could be explained by a Jupiter-sized planet passing in front of the star.

“We are looking at [KIC 8462852] with the Allen Telescope Array,” said Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. Shostak added that SETI enthusiasts should moderate their enthusiasm, because natural explanations for the peculiar changes in the luminosity of the star can’t be ruled out at this moment.

A Swarm of Comets or a Dyson Swarm of Alien Habitats and Power Stations?Dyson Swarm

A very intriguing possibility, suggested by Jason Wright, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University, is that KIC 8462852 might be surrounded by huge artificial “megastructures” built by an advanced alien civilization. The changes in the luminosity of the star are “consistent with a ‘swarm’ of megastructures,” say Wright and other authors of a research paper submitted to a scientific journal. A pre-print of the paper is available on arXiv.

A “Dyson Swarm” – a variant of the “Dyson Sphere” concept – consists of a large number of independent constructs such as solar power satellites and space habitats (right picture), orbiting in a dense formation around a star and able to capture an important part of the power output of the star. “A solid shell or ring surrounding a star is mechanically impossible,” noted Dyson in the sixties.

The form of ‘biosphere’ which I envisaged consists of a loose collection or swarm of objects traveling on independent orbits around the star. The size and shape of the individual objects would be chosen to suit the inhabitants.

“The best explanation is that there is a group of exocomets in orbit around the star,” notes a blog post titled “Comets or Aliens?” on the Planet Hunters website. “But until those models are properly investigated alien spaceships remain a possibility.”

The Wright paper points out this star is now a supremely interesting target for SETI, and we agree.

In fact, while caution and initial skepticism are needed at this moment as recommended by Shostak, the discovery of an alien super-civilization around KIC 8462852 would be an extremely important, history-changing event. Therefore, it’s important that the Allen Telescope Array and other well-funded SETI programs, such as Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Initiatives, take a hard look at the star.

Images from Shutterstock and Wikimedia Commons.

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  • corwin zelazney

    It’s important that everyone understand that even if the ATA does not intercept any radio communications or anything that looks artificial it doesn’t mean the megastructure theory isn’t valid.
    The star is 1500 light-years away and if it is an alien megastructure it could have been built by artificially intelligent robots or a species that abandoned it and is no longer there or a species that went extinct, or a species that doesn’t communicate in a way we can intercept.
    There are still a number of earth based telescopes watching right now for the next transition to take place. When it does we’ll be able to look at a wide spectrum of information that Kepler is not designed to look at so even if SETI turns up nothing that won’t be the last word.