Astronomers suggest shooting a laser into space to attract aliens to Earth like a ‘porch light’
By Mike Wehner
Science fiction has taught us for decades that when alien arrive on Earth, it’s going to be a bad day for mankind. Those fictional horror stories haven’t deterred some scientists from thinking up ways that we might attract alien civilizations to Earth, and a new feasibility study suggests that we could send a laser beam into the cosmos to act like a beacon for alien life to find.
The work, which was published in The Astrophysical Journal, suggests that existing technology could be used to produce an infrared beam bright enough to be spotted by intelligent alien civilizations. Once discovered, it would be like a bread crumb trail pointing right back to Earth, and extraterrestrials could come calling.
“This would be a challenging project but not an impossible one,” James Clark, author of the study, said in a statement. “The kinds of lasers and telescopes that are being built today can produce a detectable signal, so that an astronomer could take one look at our star and immediately see something unusual about its spectrum. I don’t know if intelligent creatures around the sun would be their first guess, but it would certainly attract further attention.”
The biggest challenge in creating a beacon that could be spotted by alien is making it bold enough to be spotted from a long distance, even with the Sun doing its best to outshine it. The paper explains that a 1- to 2-megawatt laser could be sufficient if it were shot through a telescope as large as 45 meters.
Now, feasibility aside, there are plenty of voices in the scientific community that aren’t all that bullish on the idea of meeting up with aliens in the first place. Discovering intelligent life outside of Earth would be a monumental event, obviously, but the potential consequences of inviting a space-faring race to Earth is potentially risky. There is legitimate concern that Earth’s resources could be too tempting to resist, and that we might invite our own extinction by luring extraterrestrials to our neck of the woods.
It’s important to note here that there are no actual plans to put such a “porch light” into action. Mankind has sent probes with directions to Earth into interstellar space already, hoping against hope that something might find the spacecraft and take a road trip to our planet. Eventually, something might find us, either by one of these means or entirely by chance. Let’s just hope they’re in a good mood when they do.
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