Scientists Find Novel Method for Intergalactic Communication

Broadcasting a steady radio signal across the galaxy is energy prohibitive. But a series of pulses is much more efficient, making it a likely method for a race of extraterrestrials reaching out across the cosmos to say hello.

At least, that’s the logic behind a paper recently published in the Astronomical Journal. The paper, written by Akshay Suresh and a group of scientists associated with the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, posits a new method of looking for extraterrestrial signals.

The new method created an algorithm to pluck periodic pulses from the background noise generated by the rest of the universe. The software has the potential to change the way that SETI and other organizations conduct their search.

the green bank telescope in West Virginia

Scientists are using data sets collected by the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia to listen for signs of extraterrestrial life. Photo: Shutterstock


“Until now, radio SETI has primarily dedicated its efforts to the search for continuous signals,” SETI Institute Astronomer Dr. Vishal Gajjar said in a press release. “Our study sheds light on the remarkable energy efficiency of a train of pulses as a means of interstellar communication across vast distances.”

Searching for BLIPSS

Suresh and his co-authors call the project Breakthrough Listen Investigation for Periodic Spectral Signals (BLIPSS). They are focusing their efforts on the center of the galaxy to stack the statistical deck in their favor. If something is out there broadcasting, that’s where it’s most likely to be found, the scientists say.

Have they found anything yet? If the answer was yes — I’d have led with that, trust me.

But even the fact that the BLIPSS algorithm can identify and weed out radio signals emitted by pulsar stars is a victory. SETI is a non-profit without the seemingly limitless funding of a major government behind it. So anything that helps it “sift through the metaphorical haystack,” is a good thing.

“BLIPSS showcases the cutting-edge potential of software as a science multiplier for SETI,” Suresh noted in the release.

And should you be smarter than the average human, the BLIPSS software and data sets are publicly available. So you can join in the search yourself.

Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one to catch the first trace of our eventual alien overlords (assuming they’re willing to deal with our mess).

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
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