Two Canadian astronomers published a study that claims an anomaly in the pulsing of a group of stars is possibly evidence of an alien civilization. It’s easy to be skeptical of any such proposals but the scientists really do consider an extraterrestrial involvement as one of the potential explanations to what they’ve observed.
The scientists Ermanno Borra and Eric Trottier from the Université Laval in Quebec analyzed modulations in 2.5 million stars from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey project and concluded that 234 of them exhibited strange behavior. In fact, the stars seemed to be signaling, with the conceivable explanation that it’s aliens trying to make contact. This theory was bolstered by the conclusion that the 234 signals perfectly matched the shape of an extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) signal, predicted by Borra’s previous study.
Also working in their favor is the sheer specificity of the sample - 234 stars out of 2.5 million emit a very specific signal, something that fits into previous ETI models.
“We find that the detected signals have exactly the shape of an [extraterrestrial intelligence] signal predicted in the previous publication and are therefore in agreement with this hypothesis,” the scientists write in their paper. “The fact that they are only found in a very small fraction of stars within a narrow spectral range centered near the spectral type of the sun is also in agreement with the ETI hypothesis.”
The scientists do acknowledge that other explanations are possible for the weird signals, like “rotational transitions in molecules” or “rapid pulsations” or maybe even the unusual chemistry of a small group of galactic halo stars.
But you know it’s aliens.
Also thinking that this is worth a closer look is the Breakthrough Listen Initiative, a $100 million program aimed at looking for intelligent life in space. It's headlined by Stephen Hawking and Mark Zuckerberg. The group announced that it will look into the findings of the Canadian astronomers further, but would like to see some independent proof.
In its statement, Breakthrough Listen summarized its goals with respect to the strange signals:
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It is too early to unequivocally attribute these purported signals to the activities of extraterrestrial civilizations.”
“Internationally agreed-upon protocols for searches for evidence of advanced life beyond Earth (SETI) require candidates to be confirmed by independent groups using their own telescopes, and for all natural explanations to be exhausted before invoking extraterrestrial agents as an explanation.”
The study is published in the Solar and Stellar Astrophysics journal.
Here is the announcement of the objectives for the Breakthrough Initiatives by the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking: