What if we are not alone? There are so many secrets that making contact with alien life could reveal.
The only problem is, we have no way of getting in touch with them. But what if they made the first move?
What if, from beyond the stars, we received a broadcast message from another civilization? How would we respond if the aliens got in touch? And could alien life really be trying to make contact with us?
Buckle up, because we’re dusting off the WHAT IF-FILES. If we picked up an alien signal out there in space, more than a few people would be interested!
At the top of that list would be the folks at SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). The SETI organization has been listening for signals like this since the 1960s, and developing methods that will help us to track extraterrestrial intelligence.
Their goal is to create state-of-the-art techniques that are capable of detecting signatures from space. These are called “technosignatures,” and can be anything from the chemical composition of a planet, to laser emissions, to structures orbiting stars, or maybe … aliens.
And if they got aliens on the line, they wouldn’t keep it to themselves. This is where it gets really cool.
Our pals at SETI are supposed to conduct research transparently, which means that if there is a detection, they’re supposed to communicate with the public. Thankfully, they will try to verify that the signal came from intelligent alien life before letting the cat out of the bag.
But once they’re absolutely sure the detection is legit, the discovery will be disclosed to the public, along with all the verification data. So what now?
Do we lay out the welcome mat, or board up our doors and windows? Well, get this: SETI has a Post-Detection Task Group that will handle all post-detection matters, including the next steps and how to respond.
How the heck do you respond to an alien signal, anyway? Thankfully, there will be a big discussion on how to respond. SETI doesn’t get carte blanche on this one.
No one will respond to the signal until international bodies like the United Nations give suggestions. This is going to be so awesome! But, what are the chances the signal is actually from aliens? Well, we’ve already been receiving signals from space. Scientists have been able to detect things called fast radio bursts, or FRB’s (it’s always cooler if you use an acronym).
FRB’s are explosions that happen in space, that are blindingly bright but only last for a few milliseconds. We know that, but we don’t know exactly what causes them. It’s possible that the most recent FRB we detected could have been caused by a collision of two neutron stars.
Scientists were able to trace this burst to a galaxy 6 billion light-years away. And that’s just one example. Most of the time, strange signals from outer space are debunked as something other than alien messages.
However, it is likely that we will, one day, detect alien signals. We still don’t know everything about the Universe, so we could be receiving signals right now, but we’re not advanced enough to understand them.
I mean, we can’t even speak the languages of other species on our own planet, like animals, let alone an alien dialect. In the meantime, we’re going to keep searching. Whether the aliens want to have a nice visit, or wipe us off the face of the Earth, we’ll find out later.
After all, science is the search for the truth, regardless of the outcome. But it would suck if that outcome is a full-scale invasion. We’re crossing our fingers for the nice, “we’re just exploring the cosmos” kind of aliens, not the kind that eats us, and hunts us for sport.
- “Mysterious, looping space signal could be aliens, says Harvard scientist” Eric Mack, 2020. cnet.com.
- “Declaration of Principles Concerning the Conduct of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence” 2020. Resources.Iaaseti.Org. http://resources.iaaseti.org/protocols_rev2010.pdf.
- “How Could We Decode A Message From Extraterrestrials?”. Fernandez, Elizabeth. 2020. Forbes.
- “Supercomputer to scan ‘entire sky’ for signs of aliens” Nilima Marshall, 2020. nypost.com.
- “If Aliens Are Flashing Laser Beams At Us, We Now Have A Way To Detect Them”. Childers, Tim. 2019. space.com.