Harvard Scientists Say an ESA Satellite Could Finally Reveal the Secrets of Alien Life
You probably heard about the Gaia satellite's new, super-precise star map of the Milky Way earlier this week, but it looks like charting the 100 billion stars (and various asteroids) of our home galaxy isn't the only use for this little spacecraft—researchers from Uppsala and Harvard University are looking forward to using the data from Gaia to search for alien megastructures.
In fact, we've already got two potential candidates.
A new study published on ArXiv has identified two strange objects (dubbed TYC 7169-1532-1 and TYC 6111-1162-1) as being possible alien Dyson spheres, which are giant globe-shaped structures designed to encompass a star and soak up as much of its solar energy as possible.
The study's authors acknowledge that TYC 7169-1532-1 and TYC 6111-1162-1 can likely be explained by other means, but wanted to spark discussion among scientists about the search for alien megastructures using Gaia data.
According to lead author Erik Zackrisson, from Uppsala University:
"We've previously searched for Dyson spheres in other galaxies, but when Gaia [data release 1] came along, this made it possible for us to carry out a new type of search for Dyson spheres in our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Our department has many researchers involved in various types of Gaia-related research, so there was a lot of in-house knowledge that we could use when developing this project."
Zackrisson plans to sort through Gaia's latest data dump with his team and find the best candidates, then follow up on the best of the best with individual studies, similar to the process used by NASA and Google to find new exoplanets.
This is the right way to go about it, says Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb: "This is a clever method that will identify anomalous stars, but there are other possible sources for such anomalies...Nevertheless, it is worth sorting out all candidates. Perhaps one of them would show evidence for a vast engineering project undertaken by an alien civilization, which will inspire us to be more ambitious in our future plans for space exploration."
If Zackrisson and other astronomers manage to spot an alien Dyson sphere, it'll be world-changing. In the meantime, they've got a lot of data to sort through.