Alien signals spotted in the Atacama Desert?

Written by Editorial Director, CNN Star gazers in Chile’s Atacama Desert are using their sleep-inducing night sky to scour for artificial radio signals that would hint at alien life. The mysterious signals were identified…

Alien signals spotted in the Atacama Desert?

Written by Editorial Director, CNN

Star gazers in Chile’s Atacama Desert are using their sleep-inducing night sky to scour for artificial radio signals that would hint at alien life.

The mysterious signals were identified by a French researcher, who reported on them in February in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. It’s unclear what they are.

A new study, however, says they could indicate the existence of dark energy, a mysterious force that’s causing stars to accelerate and ultimately outlive their known lifespan.

The writer of the original article, Konstantin Batygin, said that the first recipient of the signals was Austrian astrophysicist Johann von Freyberg, who alerted the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Canberra, Australia.

The NRAO office also alerted the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where it said the signals could be explained by a giant radio telescope called the Green Bank Telescope.

‘Around the edge of our (imaginary) reality’

Batygin said dark energy has a “very large energy density,” which “in effect, is just like two objects bumping into each other in space, but in this case one of them is much bigger and it’s powerful enough to knock the other one around.”

According to the study, based on the coordinates that Batygin’s team computed for the first signals, they were detected by a radio telescope in Chile, the $100 million Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. The telescope and its array of 11,000 antennas is spread over an area the size of Connecticut.

Then, Batygin looked for other radio signals that might be caused by the asteroid Ceres, a giant rock in the asteroid belt that, at a light-speed of about one-sixth the speed of light, is hurtling through space at about 60,000 mph. He was also interested in the possible extraterrestrial origins of “water bores” found on the dwarf planet Ceres.

The search for the signals has narrowed to a few areas within 100 miles of each other in Chile, according to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. While experts were initially skeptical of the discovery, they are now re-evaluating it.

‘To the very edge of the … hypothetical universe’

While they remain skeptical, planetary scientist Jack Lissauer, from the University of California, Santa Cruz, said the results are “very compelling.”

“If this type of signal is the result of dark energy, it has the potential to be an interesting new scientific discovery, to the very edge of the theoretical universe,” he said.

However, he said that the remaining uncertainties point toward a failure to detect the signals.

Though he agrees that the finding will give researchers a “great deal of new information,” he said the study doesn’t reveal much that hasn’t already been found.

“I don’t expect that these sources will be discovered through better observations, at least in the short run. There are several dozen very, very strong sources that our knowledge of these types of signals could track that are out there,” he said.

While the researchers believe the signals aren’t the result of “dark energy” due to the large energy density, Batygin said that “it’s not so clear that we know what the energy density of this stuff is.”

“We are not sure if we are looking at something that’s artificial or something that is interacting with the Earth in an essentially stable, recognizable fashion,” he said.

So if the signal turns out to be artificial, it could be further indication of a mysterious phenomenon “where you have this giant energy reservoir released in an orderly fashion, and not in a seismic earthquake fashion,” Batygin said.

Batygin is one of five astronomers from institutions around the world who have been invited to be part of a multi-year study of Ceres in the running for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, according to The New York Times.

Leave a Comment