Science & Technology

A mysterious signal that looks like a sign of alien technology – this is what research has revealed

Last December, the media reported Intriguing signal we Breakthrough Listen A project found in the data of our radio telescope. This signal, called BLC1, did not appear to be the result of recognizable astrophysical activity or the well-known Earth-based interference.

The problem was that I wasn’t ready to discuss it. When you are looking for signs of extraterrestrial life, you will want to be very careful to get it right before making an announcement. Last year I just started the secondary verification test and there were too many unanswered questions.

Today, we are ready to report that BLC1 is sadly not a signal from intellectual life beyond the Earth. Rather, it is radio interference that closely mimics the type of signal we were looking for. Our result is Nature Astronomy..

Look for solar flares and signs of life

The BLC1 story begins in April 2019 when Andrew Zick, a PhD student at the University of Sydney at the time, began observing the nearby star Proxima Centauri with multiple telescopes in search of flare activity. 4.22 light-years away, Proxima Centauri is our closest stellar neighbor, but too thin to see with the naked eye.

Flare from the stars is an explosion of energy and it’s hot plasma It may affect (and possibly destroy) the atmosphere of the planets in their path. The sun produces flares, but they are neither strong nor frequent enough to disrupt life on Earth. Understanding when and how stars flare tells us a lot about whether those planets are suitable for life.

CSIRO Parks Radio Telescope

Australian Parks Radio Telescope. Credit: CSIRO

Proxima Centauri Hosts Earth Size Exoplanet Called Proxima Centauri b, Andrew’s observations are by planets I was hit by a fierce “space weather”. Bad weather does not preclude the life that exists in the Proxima Centauri system, but it does mean that the surface of the planet is likely to be difficult to live in.

Still, as our closest neighbor, Proxima Centauri b remains an attractive target for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (or SETI). Proxima Centauri is one of the only stars we may visit in our lifetime.

At the speed of light, a two-way trip takes 8.4 light-years. I can’t send a spaceship so fast, Light sail small camera You can get there in 50 years and beam back your photos.

For this reason, working with Andrew Zic and his collaborators, CSIRO Parks Telescope Performs SETI observations in parallel with flare activity search (also known as Muryan in Willajuri).

Intriguing summer project

BLC1 signal

BLC1 signal. Each panel of the plot is an observation to Proxima Centauri (“on source”) or reference source (“off source”). BLC1 is a yellow drift line and is only present when the telescope is pointed at Proxima Centauri. Credit: Smith et al. , Nature Astronomy

Searching for these observations would be a great project for summer students. In 2020, Shane Smith, an undergraduate student at Hillsdale University in Michigan, USA, participated in Berkeley SETI’s undergraduate research experience. program And I started sifting the data. BLC1 popped out towards the end of his project.

The Breakthrough Listen team was immediately intrigued by BLC1. However, the burden of proof for claiming the detection of life across the globe is so high that we do not get too excited until we have applied all possible tests. The analysis of BLC1 was led by Sophia Sheikh, a PhD student at Pennsylvania State University, who conducted a thorough series of tests. Many of them were new.

There was plenty of evidence that BLC1 was a true sign of extraterrestrial technology (or “technical signature”). BLC1 has many of the features you would expect from a techno signature.

  • BLC1 was only seen when heading to Proxima Centauri, not elsewhere (“off-source” observations).Interference signals are generally seen in all directions because they “leak” into the telescope receiver.
  • Signals occupy only one narrow band of frequencies, but signals from stars and other astrophysical sources occur in a much wider range.
  • The frequency of the signal slowly drifted over 5 hours. Frequency drift is expected for transmitters that are not fixed to the surface of the earth. This is because the relative movement of the transmitter causes the Doppler effect.
  • The BLC1 signal lasts for several hours, unlike other previously observed satellite and aircraft interference.

Nevertheless, Sophia’s analysis concluded that BLC1 was most likely to be radio interference from here on Earth. Sophia was able to show this by searching the entire frequency range of the Parks receiver and finding a “look-alike” signal whose characteristics are mathematically related to BLC1.

Similar to BLC1 NS Appears in off-source observations. Therefore, BLC1 is guilty of radio interference.

Not the technical signature we were looking for

It is not known exactly where BLC1 came from or why it was not detected by off-source observations such as similar signals.Our best guess is that BLC1 and analogs are produced by a process called Intermodulation, The two frequencies mix to create new interference.

If you’ve heard blues or rock guitar, you’re probably familiar with intermodulation. If your guitar amp is intentionally overdriven (up to 11), intermodulation adds pleasing sound distortion to your clean guitar signal. Therefore, BLC1 is probably just an unpleasant distortion from a device with an overdriven radio frequency amplifier.

Regardless of the cause of BLC1, it wasn’t the technical signature we were looking for. However, it was a good case study, showing that the detection pipeline was working and picking up anomalous signals.

Proxima Centauri is just one of hundreds of billions of stars. Milky Way.. Searching for all of them requires maintaining momentum, continually improving tools and validation tests, and training next-generation astronomers such as Shane and Sophia to continue searching with next-generation telescopes.

Written by Danny C Price, Senior Research Fellow, Curtin University.

This article was first published conversation..conversation


“Analysis of Breakthrough Listen Interest Signals blc1” by Sofia Z. Sheikh, Shane Smith, Danny C. Price, David DeBoer, Brian C. Lacki, Daniel J. Czech, Steve Croft, Vishal Gajjar, Howard, Isaacson, Matt Lebofsky, David HE MacMahon, Cherry Ng, Karen I. Perez, Andrew PV Siemion, Claire Isabel Webb, Andrew Zic, Jamie Drew, S. PeteWorden, October 25, 2021 Nature Astronomy..
DOI: 10.1038 / s41550-021-01508-8

“Proxima Centauri” by Shane Smith, Danny C. Price, Sophia Z. Sheikh, Daniel J. Czech, Steve Croft, David Devoa, Vishal Gaillard, Howard Isaacson, Brian C. Lucky Wireless Technology Signature Search for ”, Matt Lebofsky, David HE MacMahon, Cherry Ng, Karen I. Perez, Andrew PV Siemion, Claire Isabel Webb, Jamie Drew, S. PeteWorden, Andrew Zic, October 25, 2021 Nature Astronomy..
DOI: 10.1038 / s41550-021-01479-w

A mysterious signal that looks like a sign of alien technology – this is what research has revealed A mysterious signal that looks like a sign of alien technology – this is what research has revealed

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