Scientists Discover New Method For Finding Alien Civilizations

A telescope in a domed observatory at the Norman Lockyer Observatory, Sidmouth, UK

Astrophysicists believe they may be able to detect alien civilizations by looking for satellites orbiting planets, much like ours. Instead of using previous methods, searching for broadcasted radio signals in a vast universe, scientists could look for changes in luminosity from artificial satellites orbiting a planet.

Traditionally, groups like SETI have employed massive satellites to listen to the cosmos in search of signals or lasers beamed from potentially intelligent civilizations hoping to contact us.

Unfortunately, this method has yet to bear fruit, but a new method has been proposed that was likely inspired by the hype around KIC 8462852, or Tabby’s Star. Many believed the star was orbited by a Dyson Sphere, due to large fluctuations in its luminosity, from an alien civilization harvesting its energy.

The latest idea was suggested in a paper published by astrophysicist, Hector Socas-Navarro, and uses the trajectory of our technology as a “technomarker,” a gauge of a species technological achievement.

The theory focuses on the Clarke Exobelt, named after a paper published by Arthur C. Clarke in 1945. This exobelt is the area around Earth where all of our geostationary satellites orbit. Currently, there are around 400 of them, in addition to a good amount of space junk orbiting as well.

At our rate of growth that ring might eventually become crowded with thousands of satellites – enough to be visible from a distant galaxy by the year 2200. And with reusable rockets decreasing the cost of launching satellites into orbit, that day might come even sooner.

As the Clarke Exobelt becomes increasingly populated with satellites we will, essentially, create an artificial planetary ring.

So how would we differentiate between an artificial ring and natural rings, like the ones around Saturn? Our ring won’t be flat and wide like Saturn’s, instead it will look more like a belt.

Another theory is that artificial satellites would likely be more stable than natural rings. And we’ve only observed rings around massive gas giants beyond the habitable zone of the solar system, not encircling planets close enough to the sun, capable of supporting life.

If we were to hypothetically observe an alien civilization with a Clarke Exobelt we would see fluctuations in the luminosity of light observed from the planet’s Sun as it orbits, signaling to us that an intelligent civilization lives there. And we wouldn’t even need them to reach out to us.

“…there’s no synchronicity problem, so the aliens don’t need to make any effort to get in touch.” SETI senior astronomer, Seth Shostak said. “Even if they managed to blow themselves to smithereens millions of years ago, their satellites might still be around to mark their collective grave.”

Could this become the new mo. for SETI scientists trying to spot a planetary needle in the universal haystack?

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