Magnified laser from Earth could attract alien attention, MIT researcher says

An MIT study proposes that laser technology on Earth could emit a beacon strong enough to attract attention from as far as 20,000 light years away

Magnified laser from Earth could attract alien attention, MIT researcher says

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

To create such a powerful signal, he toyed with different combinations of telescopes and megawatt lasers.

Clark says, 'I wanted to see if I could take the kinds of telescopes and lasers that we're building today, and make a detectable beacon out of them.

The laser beacon to alien life should be built upon a mountain, according to Clark, in order to minimize the amount of atmosphere the beam would have to break through before shining into space. The laser would be even more noticeable in closer star systems like Proxima Centauri and TRAPPIST-1, which are about three and 40 light years away respectively.

A message sent in this manner would have a data rate of a few hundred bits per second and could arrive at the distant planet in a few years. It suggests that a 1- to 2-megawatt laser could be pointed through the mirrors of a massive telescope - like the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope planned for Hawaii - and shot into space to produce a planetary-scale lighthouse. Such an intense signal, he reasoned, would be enough to stand out against the sun's own infrared signal, in any "cursory survey by an extraterrestrial intelligence". This would produce a beam with a staggering range of 20,000 light years.

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At 35 to 45 meters large, the telescope needed for the project would dwarf anything now seen on the Earth. 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. A telescope of that size does not now exist but there are plans to build one in Chile. It could also potentially scramble any camera aboard a spacecraft that happens to pass through it. 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.

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.

At the present time, impossible to tell whether we are alone in the universe and if this is not the case, scientists are ready to do anything to attract the aliens to us ...

The study suggests the light from a laser could spark interest from extraterrestrials- if they exist. "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".

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