While Halloween may be over, scientists don’t want us to disappoint our guards when it comes to the potential for extraterrestrial life.
A new group at the University of St Andrews in Scotland wants to come up with a plan for what to do if we encounter aliens here on Earth.
With the help of experts from around the world, they will establish robust protocols and treaties and assess any evidence of intelligent civilizations.
Their preliminary work will take place in a new research center at the university, dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).
“Science fiction is full of explorations of the impact on human society after discovery of, and even encounters with, life or intelligence elsewhere,” said Dr. John Elliott, a computer scientist and coordinator of the SETI Post-Detection Hub.
“But we have to go beyond thinking about the impact on humanity.”
A new group at the University of St Andrews in Scotland wants to devise a plan for what to do if we encounter aliens here on Earth (stock image)
The preliminary work is taking place in a new research center at the university dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Pictured: The St Andrews SETI Post-Detection Hub team, from left: Derek Ball, Emily Finer, Martin Dominik, John Elliott, Emma Johanna Puranen and Adam Bower
DOES FOREIGN LIFE EXIST?
Life has never been found outside the Earth; there is no evidence that extraterrestrial life has ever visited our planet.
However, this does not mean that the universe is lifeless except on Earth, according to NASA.
The space agency says: “While no obvious signs of life have ever been detected, the possibility of alien biology — the scientific logic that supports it — has become increasingly plausible.”
A popular line of thinking is that our own existence is proof that there is definitely life on other planets, as the chances of Earth being a “one time thing” are close to zero.
An argument against this, however, is: if there is extraterrestrial life, why haven’t we found evidence for it?
He added: ‘We need to coordinate our expert knowledge not only to assess the evidence, but also to take into account human social response as our understanding progresses and what we know and what we don’t know is communicated.
“And the time to do this is now.
“Scanning signals of presumed extraterrestrial origin for language structures and assigning meaning is an extensive and time-consuming process where our knowledge will be improved in many steps as we learn ‘Alien’.”
The group believes that little attention is paid to the consequences for society if extraterrestrial intelligence is discovered.
While the United Nations has established processes and entities for the threat of asteroid impacts, there is nothing quite like it for extraterrestrial life.
In June, NASA announced it was launching its first-ever study of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) — popularly known as UFOs.
Over the course of nine months, scientists look at current data in UAPs and determine which sightings occur naturally or are not worth investigating further.
The Hub researchers wrote: ‘Societal interest has recently grown significantly, through the detection of thousands of planets orbiting distant stars in our own galaxy and, closer to home, through the exploration of nearby worlds such as Mars and Venus, in search of for signs of life, present or past.
“The potential discovery of microbial life is likely to raise several concerns that would follow the discovery of intelligent life — we as a species are not quite prepared for the latter.”
The SETI Post-Detection hub provides the first permanent ‘home’ for developing a comprehensive framework for what happens after an alien radio signal is captured.
Scientists will manage the entire process of seeking evidence, confirming detections, their analysis and interpretation of language patterns, and managing the potential response.
They will collaborate with academics in the sciences and humanities, as well as members of the SETI community.
Scientists will manage the entire process from looking for evidence, confirming detections, their analysis of language patterns and managing the possible response (stock image)
They will also coordinate with policy experts in message decryption, data analytics, space law, regulatory development and societal impact strategies, to help close the policy gap.
dr. Elliott said, ‘Will we ever get a message from ET? We do not know. We also don’t know when this will happen.
“But we do know that we can’t afford to be ill-prepared — scientifically, socially and politically out of control — for an event that could become a reality tomorrow and that we can’t afford to mismanage.”
In July, a study found that aliens could send messages via interstellar space using quantum communication.
A team from the University of Edinburgh made calculations on the movement of X-rays through the void of space to see if they would encounter any obstacles.
Quantum particles, such as photons of light, are fragile and can break down easily if they encounter any form of interference, such as from a gravitational field.
However, it was determined that the quanta could survive a journey of at least hundreds of thousands of light-years — a greater distance than the entire Milky Way galaxy.
This is largely because the average density of matter in space is very small, reducing the chance of a quantum particle going off course.
The level of information that can be safely transferred using quanta at high speeds could make it a viable method of communicating with other life forms, the researchers say.
There are currently no known objects that naturally transmit quantum messages that could be mistaken for extraterrestrial signals, the researchers claim.
It’s just speculation at the moment, but the research does give experts another sign of life to look forward to.
They added: “In principle, it should be possible to detect a quantum signal coming from an astrophysical body or even an intelligent signal from an alien civilization.”
IMPORTANT DISCOVERIES IN HUMANITY’S SEARCH FOR FOREIGN LIFE
Discovery of pulsars
British astronomer Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell was the first person to discover a pulsar in 1967 when she saw a radio pulsar.
Since then, other types of pulsars have also been spotted emitting X-rays and gamma rays.
Pulsars are essentially rotating, highly magnetized neutron stars, but when they were first discovered, they were thought to be from aliens.
‘Wow!’ Radio signal
In 1977, an astronomer looking for extraterrestrial life in the night sky over Ohio saw a radio signal so powerful that he excitedly wrote “Wow!” next to his data.
In 1977, an astronomer looking for extraterrestrial life in the night sky over Ohio saw a radio signal so powerful that he excitedly wrote “Wow!” next to his data
The 72-second blast observed by Dr. Jerry Ehman through a radio telescope, came from Sagittarius but matched no known celestial body.
Conspiracy theorists have since claimed that the ‘Wow! signal,” which was 30 times stronger than background radiation, was a message from intelligent aliens.
Fossilized Mars Microbes
In 1996, NASA and the White House made the explosive announcement that the rock contained traces of Mars insects.
The meteorite, cataloged as Allen Hills (ALH) 84001, crashed into the frozen debris of Antarctica 13,000 years ago and was recovered in 1984.
Photos were released showing elongated segmented objects that looked remarkably lifelike.
Photos were released showing elongated segmented objects that looked remarkably lifelike (photo)
The excitement did not last long, however. Other scientists wondered if the meteorite samples were contaminated.
They also argued that the heat generated when the rock was blown into space may have created mineral structures that could be mistaken for microfossils.
Behavior of Tabby’s Star in 2005
The star, also known as KIC 8462852, is located 1,400 light-years away and has baffled astronomers since its discovery in 2015.
It dims much faster than other stars, which some experts say is a sign that aliens are harnessing a star’s energy.
The star, also known as KIC 8462852, is located 1,400 light-years away and has baffled astronomers since its discovery in 2015 (artist’s impression)
Recent studies have “eliminated the possibility of an alien megastructure,” suggesting instead that a ring of dust could be triggering the strange signals.
Exoplanets in the Goldilocks Zone in 2017
In February 2017, astronomers announced they had spotted a galaxy with planets that could support life just 39 light-years away.
Seven Earth-like planets were discovered orbiting the nearby dwarf star ‘Trappist-1’, and all of them could have water on their surfaces, one of the main components of life.
Three of the planets have such good conditions that scientists say life has already evolved on them.
Researchers claim that within ten years they will know if there is life on any of the planets and said, “This is just the beginning.”