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Hailing Frequencies Open...

On target: artist's impression of a laser beacon. (Courtesy: MIT News)

Topics: Astrobiology, Astrophysics, Laser, SETI, Space Exploration, Star Trek

A bright laser beacon that announces our presence to extraterrestrial civilizations could soon be achievable, new research suggests. Calculations done by James Clark and Kerri Cahoy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggest that current and near-future technologies could be used to produce light intense enough to be detectable to extrasolar astronomers as distant as 20,000 light-years away. The duo’s research also sheds light on how we could detect signs of intelligent life in star systems beyond our own.

For decades, some in the astronomy community pondered what would be the best way of communicating with intelligent alien life on distant planets. Once a purely academic question, the desire to communicate has been heighten recently by the ongoing discovery of large numbers of exoplanets orbiting stars other than the Sun.

Recently, two nearby exoplanets have proved particularly attractive for such efforts. These are Proxima Centauri b, a planet which lies in the habitable zone of our closest star just 4 light-years away; and the TRAPPIST-1 system, which at a distance of 40 light-years is believed to contain three potentially habitable exoplanets, are currently viewed as our best hopes for receiving replies to our messages.

Megawatt laser beacon could communicate with aliens

James Clark and Kerri Cahoy, Physics World

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