It’s a big Universe, for sure, which means we might not necessarily cross paths with any other lifeforms out there. However, if we want to attract the attention of any galactic neighbors, it appears that we could use laser technology that we already have.
According to a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), today’s lasers could be repurposed to operate as a beacon or “planetary porch light” for any aliens who may be looking for us.
This porch light It appears to be capable of attracting extraterrestrial attention from as far away as 20,000 light-years.
The infrared laser beacon, according to the team, could even be used to send primitive messages into deep space, acting as a sort of Morse code signal to let other beings know that we’re here.
“This would be a challenging project but not an impossible one,” says one of the team, astronautics graduate student James Clark. “The kinds of lasers and telescopes that are being built today can produce a detectable signal, so that an astronomer could take one look at our star and immediately see something unusual about its spectrum.”
“I don’t know if intelligent creatures around the Sun would be their first guess, but it would certainly attract further attention.”
According to the “feasibility study,” a 1- to 2-megawatt laser would be focused through a large 30- to 45-meter (100- to 150-foot) telescope. This would produce a beam of infrared radiation powerful enough to stand out from the Sun’s energy, and possibly powerful enough to attract the attention of extraterrestrial intelligence.
The researchers believe that alien astronomers in the nearby area of Proxima Centauri (the nearest star to Earth) or TRAPPIST-1 (a potentially inhabited system around 40 light-years away) would be most likely to detect our signal.
All of this would be possible using laser technology already available today or within reach of scientists, the study suggests. While there are no 30-meter telescopes on Earth today, a 39-meter telescope is being built in Chile.
The cosmic porch light would have to be built high up to avoid atmospheric interference, and could cause issues for cameras on spacecraft that pass through it, the team says.
It would also be dangerous to look at with the naked eye.
Perhaps a small price to pay if it means we can make contact with alien civilizations that would otherwise miss us. And in just a few years, we might be making plans to get together (or preparing to get blown to pieces).
“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,” says Clark.
“In general, this was a feasibility study. Whether or not this is a good idea, that’s a discussion for future work,” says Clark.
The research has been published in The Astrophysical Journal.
READ MORE: Why have Aliens never visited Earth?
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