Planetary securityAliens May Be Sending Us Probing Messages Every 16 Days

Published 17 February 2020

Is there intelligent life out there in the universe? If so, have these intelligent aliens seen us? Have they been trying to find out more about us? New research says they may have been. A just-published scientific paper presents details of blasts of radio waves sent every 16 days from a nearby massive spiral galaxy. Are these radio waves, aimed in the direction of Earth, generated by aliens? Note that the spiral  galaxy in question is 500 million light years distant: Even if the fast radio bursts (FRBs) detected were generated by an intelligent civilization, that civilization may no longer exist.

The Breakthrough Listen Initiative on Sunday released data from the most comprehensive survey yet of radio emissions from the plane of the Milky Way Galaxy, the region around its central, 4-million-solar-mass black hole, and observations of the interstellar comet 2I/Borisov.

Breakthrough Listen Principal Investigator Andrew Siemion announced the release of the nearly two petabytes of data at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It marks the second “data dump” from the four-year-old, $100 million search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) initiative. A first download of a petabyte of radio and optical telescope data was released in June 2019, marking the largest release of SETI data in the history of the field.

Breakthrough Listen says that the raw data – yet to be fully analyzed by astronomers – comes from a survey of the radio spectrum between 1 and 12 gigahertz (GHz). About half was captured via the Parkes Radio Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, which, because of its location in the Southern Hemisphere, is perfectly situated and outfitted to scan the entire galactic disk and galactic center. Parkes is part of the Australia Telescope National Facility, owned and managed by the country’s national science agency, CSIRO.

“The galactic center – the most extraordinarily energetic area of our galaxy, is an integral focus of our data gathering with all of our facilities,” said Siemion. “It is there that an advanced civilization might somehow harness the energy of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy to signal its existence.”

The remainder of the dataset was recorded by the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia (the world’s largest steerable radio dish), and the Automated Planet Finder (an optical telescope built and operated by UC Berkeley, and located at Lick Observatory outside San Jose, California).

Breakthrough Listen, based at UC Berkeley, is supported by a $100 million, 10-year commitment from the Breakthrough Initiatives, founded in 2015 by Yuri and Julia Milner to explore the universe, seek scientific evidence of life beyond Earth and encourage public debate from a planetary perspective.