Repeating signals from the center of the Milky Way could be aliens waving, a new study claims

A new search for extraterrestrial life has scientists looking inward toward the center of our galaxy.

An illustration of a metallic orb-shaped alien spaceship launching twin beams of blue light into space

A hypothetical alien spacecraft transmits radio signals into space. Scientists are on the lookout for signs like these. (Image credit: Breakthrough Listen / Danielle Futselaar)Could intelligent aliens be lurking in the heart of the Milky Way?

A new search for  extraterrestrial life  aims to discover it by listening for radio pulses from the center of our galaxy. Narrow-frequency pulses are naturally emitted by stars called pulsars, but they are also deliberately used by humans in technology like radar. Because these pulses stand out against the background radio noise of space, they are an effective way to communicate over long distances and an attractive target to listen for when searching for alien civilizations.

Scientists outlined the alien hunting strategy in a new study, published May 30 in  The Astronomical Journal  . Researchers led by Cornell University graduate student  Akshay Suresh  developed software to detect these repeating frequency patterns and tested it on known pulsars to make sure it could pick up the narrow frequencies. These frequency ranges are very small, about one tenth the width of the frequencies used by a typical FM radio station. The researchers then searched for data from the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia using the method.

“Until now, SETI radio has mainly devoted its efforts to searching for continuous signals,”  study co-author  Vishal Gajjar  , of the SETI Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the search for intelligent life on Earth, said in a statement. the universe . ‘Our study sheds light on the remarkable energy efficiency of a pulse train as a means of interstellar communication over great distances. Notably, this study marks the first comprehensive effort to conduct in-depth searches for these signals.”

Researchers are listening in on the  middle of the Milky Way  because it is dense with stars and potentially habitable exoplanets. Furthermore, if the intelligent aliens at the core of the Milky Way wanted to reach the rest of the galaxy, they could send signals across a wide range of planets, given their prime position in the center of the galaxy. Using narrow bandwidths and repeating patterns would be an excellent way for aliens to reveal themselves, since such a combination is highly unlikely to occur naturally, study co-author Steve Croft, a project  scientist  with  the Breakthrough Listen program.

The method uses an algorithm that can search through 1.5 million samples of telescope data in 30 minutes. Although the researchers found no telltale signs in their first search, they say the speed of the algorithm will help improve searches in the future.

“Breakthrough Listen captures vast volumes of data, and Akshay’s technique provides a new method to help us look for needles in that haystack that could provide tantalizing evidence of advanced extraterrestrial life forms,” ​​Croft said.

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