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SETI, Astrobiology and Red Dwarfs

If you’ve been following the KIC 8462852 story, you’ll want to be aware of Paul Carr’s Dream of the Open Channel blog, as well as his Wow! Signal Podcast, both of which make for absorbing conversation. In his latest blog post, Carr offers sensible advice about how to look at anomalies in our astronomical data. Dysonian SETI tries to spot such anomalies in hopes of uncovering the activities of an extraterrestrial civilization, but as Carr makes clear, this is an enterprise that needs to be slowly and patiently done, without jumping to any unwarranted assumptions.

Let me quote Carr on this important point:

…we will have to be patient, since we will be almost certainly be wrong at first, or perhaps just unlucky in our search. We don’t need to nail it exactly, but we will need to develop rough models of ET activity that distinguishes it from nature. These models would more or less fit the data that we think anomalous, would make testable predictions, and would show how to rule out at least known natural phenomena. Such a family of models may be available next year, or it may be in 100 years, but the more anomalous data we have, the more the models can be constrained.

This paragraph gets it right, taking it as a given that we have no idea whether there are extraterrestrial civilizations or, for that matter, life of any kind around other stars. We certainly have no idea how widespread either form of life might be, and in the case of Dysonian SETI, we would be looking at technologies so far in advance of ours that recognizing them for what they are (or might be) creates myriad challenges. So while we try to distinguish natural phenomena from the possibility of intelligent activity, we need to keep these profound limitations in mind.

Tabby’s Star, then, is a wonderful case in point, certainly a motivator for this kind of research (and, as we’ve seen, one capable of being sustained at least modestly by public funding), but we should also consider it in a broader perspective. The goal will be to build a catalog of unusual phenomena that can be consulted as we begin to differentiate among such targets. We may discover that all of these can be accounted for by natural processes, and if so, then we have learned something valuable about the universe. No small accomplishment, that.

Red Dwarfs and Astrobiology

Looking beyond SETI to more fundamental questions of astrobiology, we find ourselves in that unsettling period when we have instruments in the pipeline that can tell us much about the exoplanets we observe, but we’re not yet receiving the data that can make a definitive call on the existence of life elsewhere. Astrobiology will accumulate data at increasingly fine levels of detail as we move from missions like Kepler to searches around closer stars. Meanwhile, we have to tune up our models for detecting biosignatures as we wait for the technology to test them.

Here the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) comes to mind, as does PLATO (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars), and of course the James Webb Space Telescope. TESS is due for a 2017 launch, JWST for 2018 and PLATO for 2024. WFIRST (Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope), scheduled for the mid-2020s, is likewise going to provide key exoplanet observations, and let’s not neglect the small photometric platform CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite), which will sharpen the target lists of future ground-based observatories. We need to continue refining our answers to this question: What does life do to a planet that offers a key observable, and what are the best instruments to detect it.

Red dwarfs make excellent targets if we’re studying a planetary atmosphere to learn whether or not there are biomarkers there, and now we have a new paper from Avi Loeb (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) that asks whether such stars may ultimately become home to the vast majority of cosmic civilizations. Working with Rafael Batista and David Sloan (both at Oxford University), Loeb acknowledges the obvious: We don’t know if stars like these can support life, and the authors call for building the datasets to find out. But if they can, then the implications are that most life in deep space will eventually be around such stars.

I say ‘eventually’ because M-dwarfs have lifetimes measured in the trillions of years, much greater than the 10 billion years or so that G-class dwarfs like our Sun can expect. And of course, around our own star life gets problematic within about a billion years. We have a planet that cannot be expected to remain habitable all the way to the last days of the Sun.

If life can form on planets around red dwarfs, then the probability of life grows much higher as we go further and further into the future, for these small stars are the most common kind of star in the galaxy, comprising as much as 80 percent of the stellar population. That would mean we are early to the dance, and a densely populated galaxy has simply not had time to develop. Loeb’s paper calculates the relative formation probability per unit time of habitable Earth-like planets within a fixed comoving volume of the Universe and finds red dwarfs favored:

“If you ask, ‘When is life most likely to emerge?’ you might naively say, ‘Now,'” says Loeb. “But we find that the chance of life grows much higher in the distant future.”


Image: This artist’s conception shows a red dwarf star orbited by a pair of habitable planets. Because red dwarf stars live so long, the probability of cosmic life grows over time. As a result, Earthly life might be considered “premature.” Credit: Christine Pulliam (CfA).

Hence the importance of a biosignature detection. If we find such markers in the atmosphere of a red dwarf, we have learned something not only about that particular star, but about the prospect of life in later cosmic eras up to the ten trillion year lifetime of the average red dwarf. The universe we see has had 13.7 billion years to produce life, but we can only imagine what kinds of life might emerge in the future. As for the probability of our own emergence, let me quote from the paper:

One can certainly contend that our result presumes our existence, and we therefore have to exist at some time. Although our result puts the probability of finding ourselves at the current cosmic time within the 0.1% level, rare events do happen. In this context, we reiterate that our results are an order of magnitude estimate based on the most conservative set of assumptions within the standard ΛCDM model.

Conservative indeed, and if we tweak the assumptions, it gets more extreme:

If one were to take into account more refined models of the beginning of life and observers, this would likely push the peak even farther into the future, and make our current time less probable. As an example, one could consider that the beginning of life on a planet would not happen immediately after the planet becomes ‘habitable’. Since we do not know the circumstances that led to life on Earth, it would be more realistic to assume that some random event must have occurred to initiate life, corresponding to a Poisson process [in probability theory, used to model random points in time and space]. This would suppress early emergence and thus shift the peak probability to the future.

Are we truly premature, or are we simply going to learn that life is not possible around stars in an M-dwarf habitable zone? We’ve considered all the possibilities many times in these pages. Tidally locked to its star, a planet like this would experience constant day on one side, constant night on the other, with ramifications for climate and habitability that remain controversial. Extreme radiation from solar flares in young M-dwarfs may scour the surface of life (or, on the other hand, act as an evolutionary spur). And such planets may be home to volcanic activity that can lead to runaway greenhouse effects (see A Mini-Neptune Transformation?).

In other words, life’s chances around G-class stars may be profoundly greater than around M-dwarfs, in which case the chance of life emerging does not increase as we move into the distant future. For these reasons, using our upcoming space missions to search for life around small red stars can help us place ourselves in the cosmic hierarchy. We need to learn what conditions a planet in the habitable zone of an M-dwarf can support, and the discovery of biosignatures there would cause us to re-evaluate our thoughts on ‘average’ life and its existence around Sun-like stars.

The paper is Loeb, Batista and Sloan, “Relative Likelihood for Life as a Function of Cosmic Time,” accepted for publication in Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics (preprint). A CfA news release is also available. Ben Guarino writes up Loeb’s findings in a helpful essay for the Washington Post.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ljk August 8, 2016, 11:56

    ‘No deliberate signals to aliens, but they can pick up our TV, radio waves’ – ex-head of SETI

    Published time: 5 Aug, 2016 08:00

    The search for intelligent life beyond Earth has been ongoing for decades. Electronics scan star after star, planet after planet. But for now, the Universe has remained silent.

    What if one day, contact does happen? How will that affect humanity and our outlook on life? Are we even ready for such an event? And if there’s so many stars in our galaxy, why is nobody responding?

    We ask prominent astronomer and former Director of the Center for the Search of Extraterrestrial Intelligence Jill Tarter on Sophie&Co today.

    Full article here:


    To quote:

    SS: Jill, you know, I thought to myself often – what would I ask an alien if I ever encountered it. I’d say, “Do you believe in God?”, because I really want to know if they believe in God. What would you ask an alien if you were to meet him?

    JT: Actually, my question would be – how did you manage to grow old? How did you get through the technological adolescence that we find ourselves in at this point on this planet. How did you manage not to do yourselves in? How did you manage not to destroy your environment? How did you do it?

  • ljk August 8, 2016, 11:59


    SETI Observations of Exoplanets with the Allen Telescope Array

    G. R. Harp, Jon Richards, Jill C. Tarter, John Dreher, Jane Jordan, Seth Shostak, Ken Smolek, Tom Kilsdonk, Bethany R. Wilcox, M. K. R. Wimberly, John Ross, W. C. Barott, R. F. Ackermann, Samantha Blair

    (Submitted on 14 Jul 2016 (v1), last revised 29 Jul 2016 (this version, v2))

    We report radio SETI observations on a large number of known exoplanets and other nearby star systems using the Allen Telescope Array (ATA). Observations were made over about 19000 hours from May 2009 to Dec 2015. This search focused on narrow-band radio signals from a set totaling 9293 stars, including 2015 exoplanet stars and Kepler objects of interest and an additional 65 whose planets may be close to their Habitable Zone.

    The ATA observations were made using multiple synthesized beams and an anticoincidence filter to help identify terrestrial radio interference. Stars were observed over frequencies from 1- 9 GHz in multiple bands that avoid strong terrestrial communication frequencies.

    Data were processed in near-real time for narrow-band (0.7- 100 Hz) continuous and pulsed signals, with transmitter/receiver relative accelerations from -0.3 to 0.3 m/s^2. A total of 1.9 x 10^8 unique signals requiring immediate follow-up were detected in observations covering more than 8 x 10^6 star-MHz. We detected no persistent signals from extraterrestrial technology exceeding our frequency-dependent sensitivity threshold of 180 – 310 x 10^-26 W / m^2.

    Comments: 225 pages including very long table, 9 figures, 7 tables, resubmitted to Astrophysical Journal

    Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)

    Cite as: arXiv:1607.04207 [astro-ph.EP]
    (or arXiv:1607.04207v2 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

    Submission history

    From: Gerald Harp Ph.D. [view email]

    [v1] Thu, 14 Jul 2016 16:58:55 GMT (3586kb)
    [v2] Fri, 29 Jul 2016 00:55:08 GMT (3577kb)


  • ljk August 8, 2016, 14:09

    I do not have an issue with a strange celestial phenomenon not being the result of intelligent alien activity – or even non-intelligent alien activity. What I do not care for is how often the subject of extraterrestrial life, smart or otherwise, has objectivity thrown out the window by even the most prominent of professional scientists – them especially so.

    It is one thing to say we have no solid evidence of ETI because at its most basic level we do not. However, that is because we have done so little actual searching for it.

    We’ve been doing SETI since 1960 with Frank Drake’s Project Ozma, you declare? Yes, some scientists have conducted radio searches over the past half century, but if you look at the actual record of historical searches, the majority of them have been in one realm on the electromagnetic spectrum and in one frequency. In addition, the searches have often been more token than serious – a few hours to weeks.

    This online history of SETI will give you an excellent background as to why SETI has been so limited for so long:


    How many other scientific disciplines can have such a sporadic and limited effort at study – against such a literally vast background – only to have many declare the subject of study does not exist because these limited efforts over such short times turn up seemingly empty?

    “Well, I stared at the Atlantic for 10 minutes from the shore and no fish showed up, so there mustn’t be anything living in the sea.” – Me regarding the history of SETI

    There is an analogy to my quote: Oceanographers thought that Earth’s sea floors were essentially lifeless because the few sporadic missions they sent to the bottom saw nothing. It took the finding of the amazing creatures living ar0und hydrothermal vents in 1977 with better submersibles to wake them up about extreme life forms.

    And because the whole concept of alien life has only begun to be taken seriously in the last few centuries due to science (yes I know it goes back to the ancient Greeks, but for most of human history talking about strange beings from other worlds for most people was probably indistinguishable from angels and spirits and gods; there have always been a few exceptions but way back in the day most of them wrote in obscure places for a few fellow intellectuals), aliens still get thrown into the mix with all the fringe phenomenon.

    I am starting to see some real respect for the subject at last – probably in no small credit due to the discovery of thousands of exoworlds – but as Tabby’s Star has shown, aliens can still cause most professionals to run and hide. Until the day we do find them, then they will be knocking themselves over declaring they believed in aliens all along! :^)

    In any event, it is nice to see SETI folks and others finally starting to get outside the radio realm box for real. Their efforts are still baby steps and are hampered by decades of the old SETI paradigm, but it is a start. It is just amusing that even though mainstream SETI declared they were looking for beings more advanced than ourselves, they often had trouble actually imagining such technologies. Optical SETI was a prime example here, check that history sometime.

    • Alex Tolley August 8, 2016, 15:58

      You could make the same argument for God[s]. There has been next to no scientific work looking for evidence that deities exist. But there is a reason for that, based on how deities are used for religious purposes.

      • ljk August 9, 2016, 9:19



        Message in the Sky

        S. Hsu, A. Zee

        (Submitted on 11 Oct 2005 (v1), last revised 3 Jun 2006 (this version, v3))

        We argue that the cosmic microwave background (CMB) provides a stupendous opportunity for the Creator of universe our (assuming one exists) to have sent a message to its occupants, using known physics. Our work does not support the Intelligent Design movement in any way whatsoever, but asks, and attempts to answer, the entirely scientific question of what the medium and message might be IF there was actually a message. The medium for the message is unique. We elaborate on this observation, noting that it requires only careful adjustment of the fundamental Lagrangian, but no direct intervention in the subsequent evolution of the universe.

        Comments: 3 pages, revtex; to appear in Mod.Phys.Lett.A

        Subjects: Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph); Astrophysics (astro-ph); High Energy Physics – Phenomenology (hep-ph); High Energy Physics – Theory (hep-th)

        Journal reference: Mod.Phys.Lett. A21 (2006) 1495-1500

        DOI: 10.1142/S0217732306020834

        Cite as: arXiv:physics/0510102 [physics.pop-ph]
        (or arXiv:physics/0510102v3 [physics.pop-ph] for this version)

        Submission history

        From: Stephen D. H. Hsu [view email]

        [v1] Tue, 11 Oct 2005 20:15:52 GMT (5kb)
        [v2] Tue, 6 Dec 2005 06:20:04 GMT (7kb)
        [v3] Sat, 3 Jun 2006 04:36:35 GMT (7kb)

        And there was a followup paper….


        The Real Message in the Sky

        Douglas Scott, J.P. Zibin

        (Submitted on 15 Nov 2005)

        A recent paper by Hsu & Zee (physics/0510102) suggests that if a Creator wanted to leave a message for us, and she wanted it to be decipherable to all sentient beings, then she would place it on the most cosmic of all billboards, the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) sky. Here we point out that the spherical harmonic coefficients of the observed CMB anisotropies (or their squared amplitudes at each multipole) depend on the location of the observer, in both space and time. The amount of observer-independent information available in the CMB is a small fraction of the total that any observer can measure. Hence a lengthy message on the CMB sky is fundamentally no less observer-specific than a communication hidden in this morning’s tea-leaves. Nevertheless, the CMB sky does encode a wealth of information about the structure of the cosmos and possibly about the nature of physics at the highest energy levels. The Universe has left us a message all on its own.

        Comments: Response to physics/0510102, 2 pages

        Subjects: Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph); Astrophysics (astro-ph)

        Cite as: arXiv:physics/0511135 [physics.pop-ph]
        (or arXiv:physics/0511135v1 [physics.pop-ph] for this version)

        Submission history

        From: Douglas Scott [view email]

        [v1] Tue, 15 Nov 2005 08:09:12 GMT (5kb)

        If all this sounds like something from the novel version of Carl Sagan’s 1985 work Contact (they totally skipped this theme in the 1997 film, sadly – that’s why this story needs to be remade into a miniseries, but I digress), that is because Sagan wondered if a being or beings did create our Universe and wanted to leave its creations a message, how might they go about doing this? Sagan chose messages embedded in the value of pi.


        Both the novel and film versions mention beings who built cosmic wormhole tunnels all across the Universe and then left without so much as a goodbye note pinned to the refrigerator. They also seem to be the ones who created the Universe as well.

        If the idea of baby Universes has any validity, then it is plausible for sufficiently advanced beings to be able to create universes (by compressing a bit of their own reality) which would then be cut off from their makers completely and have to develop on their own. Can you say Deism?


  • Harry R Ray August 8, 2016, 14:28

    Not to hammer a nail so hard and so often that it turns into silly putty, but KIC8462852 APPEARS to HAVE one of these above mentioned M dwarf stars nearby; a place where life could have gotten STARTED much more easily than in the IMMEDIATE ENVIRONS of KIC8462852! If Dirk Bontes’ theory does not hold up to scrutiny, the SOLUTION to the “Tabby’s Star conundrum”(natural or Non-natural)will ALMOST CERTAINLY INVOLVE THIS STAR! Much research must be done on THIS M dwarf, and it needs to be started QUICKLY! Maybe(if we’re LUCKY)on September 24’th, we will see the first pieces of this puzzle fall into place.

  • Ashley Baldwin August 8, 2016, 15:20

    One thing that exoplanetary science has taught us is that if you point your telescope at a lot of stars for a lot if time then you discover new things. Be it unexplained dimming or “hot Jupiters” all manner of previously inconceivable things can and do turn up. No resin whya that shouldn’t remain the case as we have really only just scratched the surface . If Kepler has already made its mark, what will TESS,PLATO , WFIRST, Gaia, Euclid and the incredible LSST ( Large Synoptic Survey Telescope ) achieve? What a decade ahead . In terms of M dwarfs , for every simulation that suggests they might harbour life , another appears that says they won’t. Good simulations based on the best available ( but still very limited) observational evidence . Limited observational evidence that has already turned up KIC8462852, hot Jupiters and the seemingly most common planet type , mini- Neptunes. Never before imagined . So what chance does SETI have of providing immediate explanations and would we indeed recognise something we can’t imagine ? The recurrent theme here though is “observation” . The more the better which is ironically why the great Red Dwarf debate rages so. The easiest ( and cheapest ) way of accurately discovering and characterising planets , especially terrestrial sized planets in habitable zones which don’t have extended orbits and orbital periods is transit spectroscopy . Direct imaging works well too, but requires exquisitely sensitive and large telescopes and occulting devices , especially for habitable Spectroscopic markers . And no radius to help calculate all important density along with mass calculated via either astrometry or Doppler photometry .
    A Transit spectroscopy telescope just needs a target , a decent sized telescope and decent resolution ( a few hundred to thousand ) . And time , to collect all important photons. Just like the HabEX concept subject ,along with three other telescopes , to a detailed Decadel Science Definition Team appraisal to see what telescope comes after WFIRST and JWST . The second of these although devoting only a small fraction of its time ( and remember for this technique, time is EVERYTHING – resolution certainly ), is important as it will firstly show just how effective the technique is , but hugely improve an already sophisticated science . Just one suggestive finding ( and we know already these things happen) and we have one of the truly great discoveries of all time.

  • Alex Tolley August 8, 2016, 16:09

    We need to be a bit careful about what we mean by “Life”. Even defining it on Earth is problematic, even though we “know it when we see it” (mostly).

    There is:
    1. non-intelligent life.
    2. intelligent life that builds artifacts.
    3. intelligent non-life that builds artifacts.
    4. intelligent non-life that don’t build artifacts.

    SETI has focussed on 2 & 3. Looking for biosignatures focuses on 1, and we expect 2, but probably not 3 & 4.
    Searching for artifacts, like Dyson swarms is focussed on 2 & 3.

    Looking for a biosignature may be like looking for a park in a city dense with buildings. We assume that planets are wildernesses when they may be fully developed and devoid of biosignatures, like Wall Street after 5pm.

    • Mephane August 9, 2016, 4:00

      There is also non-intelligent life that builds artifacts.

      • Harry R Ray August 11, 2016, 9:23

        If you consider microbial mats, stromatilites, etc., to be “artifacts”, YOU GOT THAT RIGHT. It all boils down to what is a GENERALLY accepted “artifact”.

  • Alex Tolley August 8, 2016, 16:26

    I am not clear why the idea of random starts for life favours longer lived stars. If the lambda value is small, the probability of life occuring happens very quickly, making cosmic time almost immaterial to the formation of life.

    If life is dispersed through technological or other means, once it has started, it should “rapidly” fill its local galaxy, and possibly the universe.

    What might be interesting when we start to map biosignatures, is whether these biosignatures are randomly dispersed in space, or whether there are clusters. The same applies to suspected signals or artifacts.

  • Adam August 8, 2016, 17:01

    One problem with very old planets is their geophysical processes will have ground to a halt, as the main energy sources will be long gone. Both their heat of formation and their radionuclide budget aren’t likely to last more than ~10-20 Gyr. Thus for only ~0.1% of a 10 Tyr lifespan geophysics will be able to cycle the elements. After that, it’s a long slide into equilibrium processes. Everything will erode flat, water will be buried in the mantle and the atmosphere will bleed away into space.

    • ljk August 9, 2016, 16:50

      That is probably why the residents of KIC 8462852 are turning their old solar system into a Dyson Swarm, to avoid this planetary decrepitude. :^)

  • Michael August 9, 2016, 10:44

    This is possibly the best ‘image’ of a Red dwarf star, which looks more orange than red.

  • RobFlores August 9, 2016, 13:21

    One the big unknown for Red Dwarfs for planets in the habitable zone is the
    durability of their atmospheres. For RE .75-1.25 terrestrials all those mega flares would take a toll. Maybe by the time complex animals develop (in oceans/underground, The atmosphere would have only a few hundred
    million years of viability. If we find very little in the way of biosignatures
    from red dwarfs I posit, than in addition other difficulties mentioned in
    prior posts, this will be an important explanation of paucity of life signs.

  • ljk August 10, 2016, 11:49

    Well this gives me some hope that at least some ETI may be genuinely altruistic after all:


    Now you know why the aliens in Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home only visited Earth to check on the humpback whales.

  • ljk August 11, 2016, 17:15

    I Still Still Don’t Think It’s Aliens, but Tabby’s Star Keeps Getting Weirder

    By Phil Plait

    Just when you think Tabby’s Star can’t get any weirder, it goes and does.

    You know this star: It undergoes very odd dips in brightness that have defied explanation. The star, formally called KIC 8462852 (but nicknamed Tabby’s Star after Tabetha Boyajian, the astronomer who led the team investigating it), has been observed by the Kepler spacecraft for some time now. Kepler looks for dips in brightness in stars indicating the presence of a planet orbiting it; the planet blocks a tiny bit of star light, and that drop in brightness can be detected.

    But Tabby’s Star isn’t behaving itself. Instead of a smooth dip and subsequent rise in brightness indicating a planet, it suffers nonperiodic, asymmetric, and very deep dips in brightness. This is not at all what you expect from a planet. Ideas including shattered asteroids and swarms of comets explain some but not all of the dips.

    After a while people began to wonder: What if advanced aliens were building huge megastructures around the star, in order to capture its light to power their civilization? I know, that’s a bit far-fetched, but it actually fits the data pretty well. No scientist really thinks that’s the case—it’s a reach, and no signals from aliens have been found—but nothing else works, either. It’s baffling.

    Then an announcement was made that over the past century or more the star has been fading at an unprecedented rate. This finding was immediately called into question, though, and the issue of fading remained unresolved.

    But now a new study, using data from Kepler itself, shows that Tabby’s Star really is fading, and at quite a clip: Over three years of observation it faded by nearly 1 percent, then took a sudden nosedive, fading by two percent in the next 200 days.

    Full article here:


    To quote:

    “Mind you, I’m still not saying aliens. I really and quite seriously don’t think that’s it. It’s more likely we’re seeing a combination of effects doing this; a cloud of material sliding in front of the star, dimming it slowly, with thicker clumps causing the sharper fading. But even that doesn’t explain all the data.”

  • ljk August 12, 2016, 10:29

    SETI Reconceived and Broadened

    Posted on 2016-08-11 by Marc Kaufman

    For decades, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and its SETI Institute home base have been synonymous with the search for intelligent, technologically advanced life beyond Earth. The pathway to some day finding that potentially sophisticated life has been radio astronomy and the parsing of any seemingly unnatural signals arriving from faraway star system — signals that just might be the product of intelligent extraterrestrial life.

    It has been a lonely five decade search by now, with some tantalizing anomalies to decipher but no “eurekas.” After Congress defunded SETI in the early 1990s — a Nevada senator led the charge against spending taxpayer money to look for “little green men” — the program has also been chronically in need of, and looking for, private supporters and benefactors.

    But to those who know it better, the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California has long been more than that well-known listening program. The Institute’s Carl Sagan Center for Research is home to scores of respected space, communication, and astrobiology scientists, and most have little or nothing to do with the specific message-analyzing arm of the organization.

    And now, the new head of the Carl Sagan Center has proposed an ambitious effort to further re-define and re-position SETI and the Institute. In a recent paper in the Astrobiology Journal, Nathalie Cabrol has proposed a much broader approach to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, incorporating disciplines including psychology, social sciences, communication theory and even neuroscience to the traditional astronomical approach.

    “To find ET, we must open our minds beyond a deeply-rooted, Earth-centric perspective, expand our research methods and deploy new tools,” she wrote. “Never before has so much data been available in so many scientific disciplines to help us grasp the role of probabilistic events in the development of extraterrestrial intelligence.

    “These data tell us that each world is a unique planetary experiment. Advanced intelligent life is likely plentiful in the universe, but may be very different from us, based on what we now know of the coevolution of life and environment.”

    Full article here:


    My comment: While I am glad to see The SETI Institute publicly opening up to new ideas for finding alien minds beyond radio wave searches, why has it taken so darn long? Actually I know the answer to that question and so does anyone else who knows more than just a little history on the subject:


    • spaceman August 13, 2016, 21:28

      I don’t think intelligent life is plentiful in the Universe. There seem to be incredible barriers to its emergence. Many of us mistakenly think that because we are here there must be many others as well elsewhere.

      • ljk August 14, 2016, 22:29

        However we will not know for certain one way or the other until we conduct proper scientific searches, certainly better than the largely token efforts we have been doing since 1960. So while everyone is entitled to their opinion, I am not comfortable declaring either a strong yes or no to the existence of celestial neighbors until we have done a much better job at finding out.

        • RAS August 15, 2016, 13:12

          Declaring either way on how common or not intelligence life is way too soon at this stage especially as until very recently we haven’t even had the tools to begin a through search for it. SETI for example has been starved of funding for years on end and the bands it can search in are seriously limited. This is also assuming that we were lucky to catch any alien race at the stage when they were still producing radio waves which is liable to be a very narrow window. I very much doubt we will have a true set of tools to detect intelligent aliens for sometime unless we were incredibly lucky.

  • Jordan Demich August 15, 2016, 3:28

    These findings imply that red dwarfs are reasonable targets for astrobiology studies, including SETI searches for artificial radio signals from alien technologies.

    • ljk August 15, 2016, 9:22

      Remember an ETI occupying a red dwarf star system – or any star system for that matter – does not have to have been one that evolved there from the start. They could be visiting for exploration purposes, or a mining colony, etc.

      Or they could be in a red dwarf system for this reason:


      To quote:

      “…the video suggests that advanced civilizations might eschew interstellar conquest in favor of creating uploading their minds into a “Matrioshka brain,” a kind of theoretical megastructure that channels solar energy into unparalleled supercomputing ability.

      “A computer of such computing power that an entire species could upload their consciousness and exist in a simulated universe,” explains Kurz Gesagt. “Potentially one could experience an eternity of pure ecstasies without ever being bored or sad—the perfect life.” [But might that level of eternal happiness also become boring after a while? Or maybe I just need to be in that state for an extended period of time to learn for myself. Let’s get cracking with that advanced VR stuff, computer folks!”]

      “If built around a red dwarf, this computer could be powered for up to 10 trillion years,” the narrator adds. “Who would want to conquer the galaxy or make contact with other lifeforms if this were an option?”

      So in essence, just about anywhere in the galaxy and beyond are fair game for searching. Another example also involves the Matrioshka Brains: They actually need to be in the cooler regions of space, away from the usual SETI targets of G2 class suns. So searching for infrared signatures in seemingly empty space is the way to go for them. It’s all part of breaking the decades old paradigm of SETI being only in the radio realm and the (organic) aliens living and transmitting from an Earthlike exoplanet circling a Sol type star.

      • Harry R Ray August 18, 2016, 9:42

        The only problem I see with building a Matrioschka Brain around a Red Dwarf star is LACK of materials to complete it. However, if the builders happened to originate on a planet orbiting a Red Dwarf star that itself was part of a long-period binary, with the other star being much more massive, whose system contains ALL THE NECESSARY MATERIALS NEEDED to build the Matrioshka Brain, a sufficiently advanced civilization should have the ability to TRANSPORT the remains of deconstructed planets, asteroid belts, and Kuiper belts from the larger star to the smaller one. Is this what is happening at KIC8462852? That would CERTAINLY EXPLAIN the LACK of IR and an INCREASE IN DENSITY in dust over time which was ONE of Montet and Simon’s possible solutions to their peculiar 2.5% dip over a period of 200 days.

  • ljk August 15, 2016, 10:11

    NASA’s Kepler Mission –“Advanced Alien Civilizations Are Likely Extinct” (Weekend Feature)

    August 14, 2016


    Well, yes, anyone who has been reading science fiction since the 1920s knows there is a strong possibility for ancient alien civilizations both living and extinct. Of course this may contradict this other recent news item:


    Maybe astronomers need to get together on this subject more often to make a consensus, because while I understand the need to look at things from different viewpoints, when you have a media that just publishes whatever comes out of any source they consider an authority and feed it to a public with generally limited science knowledge and skills plus the need for new thrills all the time, the results are contradiction, confusion, frustration, and finally rejection of the information and science.

    And China is really starting to hop on the SETI bandwagon now that it has the largest single dish radio observatory on Earth:


  • Harry R Ray August 15, 2016, 10:12

    Before you read this, check out my LATEST comments on the most recent posting on this website. MORE THAN ONE website is now reporting on this STILL VERY SPECULATIVE NEWS! The MOST RELIABLE ONE is http://www.phys.org. Check it out!

    • ljk August 15, 2016, 11:12

      Harry, I am guessing you meant this article in particular:


      As I said in response to your other note, Pale Red Dot is claiming on their Twitter account that they did not talk to the press. So who did?

      • Harry R Ray August 15, 2016, 15:30

        Der Speigel broke the news! My guess is that it may involve a PERIPHERAL individual loosely associated with the PRD team that either opened a letter or read a text indicating that their paper had been accepted, quite likely if whoever it was was EMPLOYED at the telescope facility.

    • DJ Kaplan August 15, 2016, 14:28

      Harry, MORE THAN ONE website may be relying on the same report on phys.org.

      BTW, the phys.org article calls it “Kepler 452b”. Did the Kepler telescope find it?

      • S Goodman August 15, 2016, 15:36

        Yes, they are relying on the same report from Der Spiegel.

        You are misreading, phys.org does not call it Kepler 452b. They mention that planet as a previously reported supposed “Earth-twin”, and comparing it to this rumoured planet. Kepler cannot look at Proxima Centauri.

        • Harry R Ray August 15, 2016, 17:22

          According to Der Spiegel, the official announcement is supposed to be made around the end of this month. I advise everyone to just let this whole thing COOL OFF until then!

          • ljk August 16, 2016, 12:05

            Now you know with a rumor like this, it is only going to get hotter, especially the longer the officials involved in this try to keep it under wraps.

            By the time it is announced, I predict that not only will the public and media declare that this alien planet to be just like Earth, but that its inhabitants will both be signalling us and sending a starship our way, while NASA will no doubt finally have a reason to unveil its secret warp drive project and already have an equipped interstellar vessel in orbit ready to go meet our new neighbors. :^)

            • ljk August 16, 2016, 12:10

              Or Proxima Centauri A will have big blue humanoid catlike inhabitants who are unknowingly sitting on a huge reserve of minerals that we need to keep our civilization running. So expect a massive expedition to “liberate” these poor natives real soon.

      • ljk August 15, 2016, 16:39

        Kepler 452b is definitely NOT the rumored exoplanet circling Proxima Centauri, as it is located around a G2 class star 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus:


        Kepler observed a very narrow range of sky in the region of Cygnus, while the Alpha Centauri system is, shockingly, in the Centaurus constellation in the Southern Hemisphere.

        • Spaceman August 15, 2016, 21:30

          Is this rumor based on work done by the Pale Red Dot campaign or some other group in competition with them?

          • ljk August 16, 2016, 12:07

            According to this site:


            The relevant paragraph, quoted:

            Searches Galore

            Other searches for possible planets around Proxima Centauri get underway this year as well.

            “It seems that suddenly, Proxima has fallen in the spotlight,” says Anglada. “We are talking about three top techniques scheduled in the same year: high-precision Doppler, transit photometry, and microlensing.”

            The Hubble Space Telescope will take advantage of Proxima Centauri’s passage in front of a background star to hunt for possible microlensing events, small spikes in brightness that an Earth-size planet orbiting the red dwarf star could produce as it magnifies the background star’s light.

            The orbiting Canadian observatory named MOST (Micro-variability & Oscillations of STars) has also scrutinized Proxima Centauri in the past for exoplanet transits, which would produce a dip in the star’s brightness. The satellite recently completed observing runs 10 and 30 days in length, but hasn’t yet found any signs of intervening planets dimming the star’s light.

            In theory, the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission, as well as the future crop of space telescopes including James Webb Space Telescope and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), could also detect worlds orbiting Proxima Centauri.

  • DJ Kaplan August 15, 2016, 12:40

    They were wrong about Alpha Centauri Bb.

  • RAS August 15, 2016, 15:12

    What and you don’t think they’ve learnt from that experience, which is why I imagine they were taking their time in announcing anything until somebody went and leaked it.

    • DJ Kaplan August 16, 2016, 14:43

      They held it back because they wanted to be sure, and apparently they aren’t sure. So we should not get too excited.

      • ljk August 17, 2016, 9:19

        How do you know they are not certain if they have found an exoplanet or not? Is this a guess on your part or some real information?

  • Andrew Palfreyman August 15, 2016, 20:50

    Paul, you may have to change the name “Centauri Dreams” to something more concrete in the near future .

    Dreams can come true :)

  • David Cummings August 16, 2016, 8:52

    If this turns out to be a real find, and if it turns out that there is an earth-sized rocky planet in an HZ orbit only 4 light years away, then I would hope to see a big boost in funding for the Breakthrough Starshot project. Maybe a three-way boost: increased corporate donations, financial contributions from the US and other governments and some kind of crowd-funding, maybe with a global lottery with huge payoffs and huge rake-offs, with the rake, of course, going to the Breakthrough Starshot project.

    It’s long past time, ladies and gentlemen, to get off our collective butts and send a probe to the Centauri systems. This new finding, assuming it pans out, might be the kick-in-the-butt humanity needs.

    • spaceman August 16, 2016, 11:28

      It is my understanding that there are 2 independent teams looking for smaller worlds around proxima centauri? What will be interesting to me is if they release conflicting results such that one group detects a planet and the other group does not find any trace of a planet. Of course, if both groups find a planet with similar orbital period and mass then we can be more certain that it exists. Either way, we live in exciting times!

      If the rumor turns out to be true, you would think that the presence of a habitable zone planet so “close” to Sol would provide further motivation for the Breakthrough Starshot project. Short of that, I would hope that it would provide impetus to the development of a very high resolution direct-imaging mission capable of detecting even the subtlest of biosignatures.

      • ljk August 16, 2016, 12:13

        Null results usually do not garner such tight news embargoes, though the recent lack of finding new particles at CERN is an example in opposition to this theory.


        • ljk August 16, 2016, 12:22

          I would also like to think that this rumor shows that if the “authorities” had real evidence of intelligent alien life, or alien life at all, that the human need to gossip would prove more powerful than the officials’ abilities to keep such news top secret.

          There was an example involving The SETI Institute in 1997, when they thought they had found a real alien radio signal with their Project Phoenix search. Naturally they wanted and tried to keep things quiet until they could confirm that the discovery was the real deal.

          However, one staff member got excited and called his wife about what the institute thought they had found and the news spread from there. It turned out the signal was actually from a terrestrial satellite, but the point is that such a major discovery will probably not stay hidden for long no matter what.

      • David Cummings August 16, 2016, 15:00

        The James Webb Space Telescope has a long list of mission goals, only one of which is looking at exoplanets. Presumably, it will be engaged at least briefly in a glance at the Centauri systems.

        • ljk August 16, 2016, 17:11

          And Tabby’s Star.

  • Hary R Ray August 16, 2016, 17:28

    As per my LAST above comment, I swore off making any further comments on this POSSIBLE discovery until either the announcement or September 1. HOWEVER: That does NOT prevent me from commenting on the WAY we have ARRIVED at this situation. In the Internet Age, even rank ameteurs like ME can SCOOP MAJOR DISCOVERIES! CASE-IN-POINT: Kepler 186f! In February, 2014, I STUMBLED upon an agenda for a virtually UNRECOGNISED meeting of exoplanet astronomers(by “unrecognized” I mean, unpublicized and very small). The presentation itinerary included the following: “Kepler 186f: An Earth-sized Planet in the Habitable Zone of a Red Dwarf Star”. At that time the ….Jamboree… website did NOT contain the ABSTRACT, which meant that I had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA about ANY of the PARAMETERS of this planet. Then two weeks later, the 715 Kepler planets “…verification by multiplicity…” paper came out, and once ALL OF THAT DATA was DOWNLOADED onto the official Kepler website, I was able to CROSS- REFERENCE the Kepler designation with the KOI designation! I then turned to the HEC “data” section to get the parameters of KOI571.05, and, in LATE FEBRUARY, STARTED making comments on Kepler 186f/KOI 571.05 on this website! So I was the ORIGINAL “whistle blower” on this discovery, NOT the early March post on the “Discovery News” website, which the “whistle blowing” was ATTRIBUTED TO! To me, it is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING that this POSSIBLE discovery was not leaked A WHOLE LOT EARLIER!

    • ljk August 17, 2016, 8:32

      Probably because most members of the media these days are not science oriented and would not even think about looking in the data for such information, or know how to if they did. Citizen science found Tabby’ Star, after all. I read somewhere that Kepler is designed to IGNORE data that does not fit the parameters of an exoplanet, so it is up to a human to say Hey, wait a minute….

      It’s almost as if the professional astronomical community doesn’t want to find evidence of ETI. for career, cultural, and religious reasons. Nah….

  • ljk August 17, 2016, 9:21

    Nothing new here but the article does discuss some of the more plausible methods we may be able to reach Proxima Centauri A with a probe:


  • ljk August 17, 2016, 13:11

    Prof. Lubin Wants to Send Our Digital Selves to the Stars

    Published: 16 Aug 2016

    by Matt Williams

    Setting foot on a distant planet… we’ve all dreamed about it at one time or another. And it has been a staple of science fiction for almost a century. Engage the warp dive, spool up the FLT, open a wormhole, or jump into the cryochamber. Next stop, Alpha Centauri (or some other star)! But when it comes to turning science fiction into science fact, there are certain unfortunate realities we have to contend with. For starters, none of the technology for faster-than-light travel exists!

    Second, sending crewed mission to even the nearest planets is a very expensive and time consuming endeavor. But thanks to ongoing developments in the fields of miniaturization, electronics and direct-energy, it might be possible to send tiny spacecraft to distant stars in a single lifetime, which could carry something of humanity along with them. Such is the hope of Professor Philip Lubin and Travis Bradshears, the founders of “Voices of Humanity”: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1793003507/voices-of-humanity-the-worlds-space-time-capsule

    For people familiar with directed-energy concepts, the name Philip Lubin should definitely ring a bell. A professor from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), he is also the mind behind the NASA-funded Directed Energy Propulsion for Interstellar Exploraiton (DEEP-IN) project, and the Directed Energy Interstellar Study. These projects seek to use laser arrays and large sails to achieve relativistic flight for the sake of making interstellar missions a reality.



    Full article here:


    To quote:

    Intrinsic to this is the creation of a Humanity Chip, a custom semiconductor memory device that can be attached to the small, wafer-scale spacecraft that are part of DEEP-IN and other directed-energy concepts. This chip will contain volumes of data, including tweets, media files, and even the digital DNA records of all those who want to take part in the mission. As Professor Lubin told Universe Today in a phone interview:

    “We wanted to put on board some part of humanity. We couldn’t shrink ray people down, so Travis and I brainstormed and thought that the next best thing would be to allow people to become digital astronauts. We wanted to pave the way for interstellar missions where we could send the essence of humanity to the stars – “Emissaries of the Earth”, if you will. We wanted to pave the way for that.”

    This digital archive would be similar to the Golden Record that was placed on the Voyager probes, but would be much more sophisticated. Taking advantage of all the advances made in computing, electronics and data storage in recent decades, it would contain many millions of times the data, but comprise a tiny fraction of the volume.

    [However, keep in mind that the “primitive” Golden Record is relatively easy to operate and extract most of its information from. All one has to do is hold the stylus that was thoughtfully included with both Voyager probes, put the attached needle in the record groove, then spin the disc. Can this Humanity Chip be read as easily? And no, we should not automatically assume that someone who can find it also has the technology and the wherewithall to interpret and operate it correctly. As for primitive forms of communication, ancient clay tablets and cave paintings may be very low-tech, but we can still read them both because of this simple method of communication they used along with the medium they were placed on: Rocks, or materials that will become hardened into rocks. Paper usually does not last nearly as long, and we are all familiar with how quickly computer storage technology becomes outdated and unreadable – and this is by and for the same species on the same planet, separate by only a matter of years or decades.]

  • ljk August 17, 2016, 13:36

    Since I am assuming this is the go-to place for various SETI/METI items on CD for the moment, check out this new science fiction film titled Arrival about alien contact coming November 11, 2016:


    Arrival looks genuinely promising, but then again so did Interstellar, until we found out that Christopher Nolan tried to make the next 2001: A Space Odyssey and we discovered that he wasn’t Stanley Kubrick, but then again who is?

    In any event, the film at least appears it could be the alien contact equivalent of Ex Machina, speaking of recent truly good and thought-provoking SF cinema. At the least it should open up human minds and debates about how a truly alien intelligent species might communicate and act, and how we should act and respond in turn. The trailer was even getting me thinking that this film could even emulate some of Stanislaw Lem’s more thought-provoking ideas about extraterrestrial contact. Let us hope.


    • Wojciech J August 19, 2016, 18:42

      This is based on a SF story, more of an social fiction than science fiction, and goes into direction of how language shapes reality, in this case in real terms as understanding the alien language allows the character for better or worse change perception of spatial dimensions.

      • ljk August 22, 2016, 10:33

        If there is one thing that the rather brief history of modern SETI has shown, is that we need more experts in disciplines outside of radio astronomy if we ever want to be really serious about finding and especially communicating with truly alien intelligences.


        I can only hope Arrival will help steer the scientific and cultural thinking on this matter in the right direction. And yes, films do have a much better educational influence on the public than many realize or are willing to admit – with depictions of aliens very much included in this list.


  • ljk August 18, 2016, 10:25


    K2 Discovers a Busy Bee: An Unusual Transiting Neptune Found in the Beehive Cluster

    Christian Obermeier, Thomas Henning, Joshua E. Schlieder, Ian J. M. Crossfield, Erik A. Petigura, Andrew W. Howard, Evan Sinukoff, Howard Isaacson, David R. Ciardi, Trevor J. David, Lynne A. Hillenbrand, Charles A. Beichmann, Steve B. Howell, Elliot Horch, Mark Everett, Lea Hirsch, Johanna Teske, Jessie L. Christiansen, Sébastien Lépine, Kimberly M. Aller, Michael C. Liu, Roberto P. Saglia, John Livingston, Matthias Kluge
    (Submitted on 16 Aug 2016)

    Open clusters have been the focus of several exoplanet surveys but only a few planets have so far been discovered. The \emph{Kepler} spacecraft revealed an abundance of small planets around small, cool stars, therefore, such cluster members are prime targets for exoplanet transit searches. Kepler’s new mission, K2, is targeting several open clusters and star-forming regions around the ecliptic to search for transiting planets around their low-mass constituents.

    Here, we report the discovery of the first transiting planet in the intermediate-age (800 Myr) Beehive cluster (Praesepe). K2-95 is a faint (Kp=15.5mag) M3.0±0.5 dwarf from K2’s Campaign 5 with an effective temperature of 3471±124K, approximately solar metallicity and a radius of 0.402±0.050R⊙.

    We detected a transiting planet with a radius of 3.47+0.78−0.53R⊕ and an orbital period of 10.134 days. We combined photometry, medium/high-resolution spectroscopy, adaptive optics/speckle imaging and archival survey images to rule out any false positive detection scenarios, validate the planet, and further characterize the system.

    The planet’s radius is very unusual as M-dwarf field stars rarely have Neptune-sized transiting planets. The comparatively large radius of K2-95b is consistent with the other recently discovered cluster planets K2-25b (Hyades) and K2-33b (Upper Scorpius), indicating systematic differences in their evolutionary states or formation. These discoveries from K2 provide a snapshot of planet formation and evolution in cluster environments and thus make excellent laboratories to test differences between field-star and cluster planet populations.

    Comments: 14 pages, 8 figues. Accepted for publication in AJ

    Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

    Cite as: arXiv:1608.04760 [astro-ph.EP]
    (or arXiv:1608.04760v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

    Submission history

    From: Christian Obermeier [view email]

    [v1] Tue, 16 Aug 2016 20:04:36 GMT (7852kb,D)


  • ljk August 18, 2016, 10:29

    Venus-like Exoplanet Might Have Oxygen Atmosphere, But Not Life

    Release No.: 2016-18

    For Release: Thursday, August 18, 2016 – 9:00 am

    Cambridge, MA –

    The distant planet GJ 1132b intrigued astronomers when it was discovered last year. Located just 39 light-years from Earth, it might have an atmosphere despite being baked to a temperature of around 450 degrees Fahrenheit. But would that atmosphere be thick and soupy or thin and wispy? New research suggests the latter is much more likely.

    Harvard astronomer Laura Schaefer (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, or CfA) and her colleagues examined the question of what would happen to GJ 1132b over time if it began with a steamy, water-rich atmosphere.

    Orbiting so close to its star, at a distance of just 1.4 million miles, the planet is flooded with ultraviolet or UV light. UV light breaks apart water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, both of which then can be lost into space. However, since hydrogen is lighter it escapes more readily, while oxygen lingers behind.

    “On cooler planets, oxygen could be a sign of alien life and habitability. But on a hot planet like GJ 1132b, it’s a sign of the exact opposite – a planet that’s being baked and sterilized,” said Schaefer.

    Since water vapor is a greenhouse gas, the planet would have a strong greenhouse effect, amplifying the star’s already intense heat. As a result, its surface could stay molten for millions of years.

    A “magma ocean” would interact with the atmosphere, absorbing some of the oxygen, but how much? Only about one-tenth, according to the model created by Schaefer and her colleagues. Most of the remaining 90 percent of leftover oxygen streams off into space, however some might linger.

    “This planet might be the first time we detect oxygen on a rocky planet outside the solar system,” said co-author Robin Wordsworth (Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences).

    Full article here:


  • Harry R Ray August 19, 2016, 9:54

    Mikko Toumei posted a tweet showing a graph of PRD’s RV amplitudes with regards to orbital period(days) and delta In L(whatever THAT is). Three spikes appear at the 0.25, 0.5, and 5.9(which is the PROJECTED orbital period based on EARLIER data)day period points on the graph. The 0.25 day spike is twice as high as the 5.9 day spike. The 0.5 day spike is just a bit lower than the 5.9 day spike. This graph appears on the http://www.solar-flux.forumandco.com website. Since I do NOT KNOW what delta In L means, I do not know whether or NOT there are TWO MORE planetary signatures. If they ARE planetary signatures, the odds are QUITE HIGH that both planets would TRANSIT, which would give some CREDENCE to the David Kipping “…I can’t comment…for a few weeks…” tweet being as a result of an EMBARGO!

    • S Goodman August 20, 2016, 14:27

      The graph Mikko retweeted is not from Pale Red Dot data, but the previous search in 2013; It is explained at the bottom of this page https://palereddot.org/the-signal/

      This diagram is a form of Periodogram, designed to show periodic trends in the data. The larger the natural log of the likelihood (Ln L) the more statistically significant a periodic trand is. Beware though, a peak can be spurious and not real for a number of reasons; random noise, measurement cadence etc.

      The earlier peaks you mention are not particularly significant, especially those below a period of one day because this is almost certainly an artefact of the the measurement cadence rather than a real trend.

      The important peak, and the one that lead to the Pale Red Dot program, is the poorly constrained one between 10-20 days.

  • ljk August 22, 2016, 10:46

    The experts weigh in on whether we are too primitive for the more advanced ETI to talk to or even notice:


    To quote:

    Lord Rees, a leading cosmologist and astrophysicist who is the president of Britain’s Royal Society and astronomer to the Queen of England believes the existence of extraterrestrial life may be beyond human understanding.

    “They could be staring us in the face and we just don’t recognize them. The problem is that we’re looking for something very much like us, assuming that they at least have something like the same mathematics and technology. I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive. Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there as aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.”

  • ljk August 22, 2016, 12:30

    Could Proxima Centauri Be Our Interstellar Getaway?


    Well, having an exoplanet or two there certainly isn’t going to hurt. Especially since the rumors are saying it is Earth-sized – but of course some people are already interpreting that as Earth LIKE and therefore aliens, even though red dwarf stars have some rather nasty solar flares, along with rather small habitable zones and such.

    Then again, ETI in a star system do not necessarily have to be natives to exist there. They just need some kind of interstellar transportation system.

  • Harry R Ray August 22, 2016, 15:59

    JUST RECENTLY POSTED ON THE http://www.solar-flux.forumandco.com website: On Wedensday, ESO “…will host a press conference at its headquarters in Garching, near Munich, Germany…” at 1 PM CET(7 AM EDT). I AM GETTING UP VERY EARLY DAY AFTER TOMMORROW!!! ARE YOU? PS: Paul Gilster has mentioned on this website that he is in constant(!?) contact with the PRD team, but because if an ALMOST CERTAIN EMBARGO, I doubt that EVEN HE has any relevant information at this time.

    • ljk August 23, 2016, 8:38

      Some more news:


      Unless we are in for a big surprise, someone has likely confused Earth-sized with Earth-like.

      • Harry R Ray August 23, 2016, 17:23

        Most likely it isn’t EVEN Earth SIZED! The PRD campaign measures ONLY the mass. If this turns out to be a “water-world”, it could be SIGNIFIGANTLY LARGER THAN EARTH! Here’s how I THINK it came down: The leaker used the term, “Earth-sized INSTEAD or Earth-massed, because the planet is ALMOST CERTAINLY more or less than EXACTLY one Earth mass. Then the contact person at Der Speigel CHANGED that to “Earth-LIKE” because it was ALSO MENTIONED BY THE LEAKER that the planet was ALSO in the HZ. What is NOT known is if it is the OPTIMISTIC(OP 3.75days to 27days)HZ or the CONSERVATIVE(OP 5.5 days to 14 days)HZ. To be REALLY “Earth-like” it would have to be in what I call the REALISTIC HZ, which, due to Proxima Centauri’ CONSTANT FLARING, may not EVEN EXIST!

  • Harry R Ray August 23, 2016, 17:52

    PRD JUST TWEETED: “updates on the #palereddot project will be coming soon”. I guess that sort-of SEALS THE DEAL!!!

  • ljk August 25, 2016, 11:06


    Gravitational Microlensing Events as a Target for SETI project

    Sohrab Rahvar

    (Submitted on 18 Sep 2015 (v1), last revised 1 Jul 2016 (this version, v2))

    Detection of signals from a possible extrasolar technological civilization is one of the challenging efforts of science. In this work, we propose using natural telescopes made of single or binary gravitational lensing systems to magnify leakage of electromagnetic signals from a remote planet harbours an Extra Terrestrial Intelligent (ETI) technology.

    The gravitational microlensing surveys are monitoring a large area of Galactic bulge for searching microlensing events and they find more than 2000 events per year. These lenses are capable of playing the role of natural telescopes and in some occasions they can magnify radio band signals from the planets orbiting around the source stars in gravitational microlensing systems.

    Assuming that frequency of electromagnetic waves used for telecommunication in ETIs is similar to ours, we propose follow-up observation of microlensing events with radio telescopes such as Square Kilometre Array (SKA), Low Frequency Demonstrators (LFD) and Mileura Wide-Field Array (MWA). Amplifying signals from the leakage of broadcasting by an Earth-like civilizations will allow us to detect them up to center of Milky Way galaxy.

    Our analysis shows that in binary microlensing systems, the probability of amplification of signals from ETIs is more than that in single microlensing events. Finally we propose target of opportunity mode for follow-up observations of binary microlensing events with SKA as a new observational program for searching ETIs. Using the optimistic values for the factors of Drake equation provides detection of about one event per year.

    Comments: 14 pages, 8 figures, accepted in ApJ

    Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

    Cite as: arXiv:1509.05504 [astro-ph.IM]
    (or arXiv:1509.05504v2 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)

    Submission history

    From: Sohrab Rahvar [view email]

    [v1] Fri, 18 Sep 2015 04:48:06 GMT (1303kb)
    [v2] Fri, 1 Jul 2016 17:33:23 GMT (1245kb)


  • ljk August 25, 2016, 11:16

    Aliens on Line 1

    For one evening, it looked like we finally had an extraterrestrial signal.

    By Seth Shostak

    Air & Space Magazine

    August 2016

    We thought we had found E.T.

    It was early on a summer evening in 1997. I had just finished dinner, and although I don’t recall the fare, I do recall the post-prandial excitement. Tom Pierson, the SETI Institute’s chief executive, called me at home and suggested that I hightail it down to the office.

    “We’ve got a signal,” he said in his trademark deadpan, “and it’s looking good.”

    After a short drive to our headquarters in Mountain View, California, I walked into the labyrinth where the institute’s scientists and engineers work. I found them decamped to an adjacent hallway, where a long table with a row of monitors was pushed against a wall. A half-dozen sleepy people were seated facing the table, their eyes fixed on the monitors, which were displaying a teeming grid of data.

    The numbers told a simple story: A narrow-band signal—millions of times more spectrally compact than a TV broadcast—was coming from the skies.

    Full article here:


    To quote:

    And we had learned something. The SETI protocols, while well intentioned, aren’t particularly useful in real life. Yes, of course any promising signal should be checked thoroughly, but you don’t need a protocol to understand that. And the stipulation to tell the world is as useless as hair gel for Mr. Clean. The incident demonstrated that any promising signal will become public knowledge immediately, even though it will be days or weeks before it’s rigorously confirmed. While that fact should quiet those who think that any detection of alien intelligence would be kept under wraps to avoid panic among the populace, the corollary is that in the future, you should expect to hear about some signals that look good but, after a few days of checking, don’t pan out. As soon as an interesting signal tickles a radio telescope, scientists will start tweeting and blogging. You can bet on it. [Certainly even moreso than in 1997. Many humans are going to flip out about such news no matter when you tell them or how carefully. Biological evolution is so slow.]

  • ljk August 29, 2016, 11:24


    Long-term consequences of observing an expanding cosmological civilization

    S. Jay Olson

    (Submitted on 26 Aug 2016)

    Suppose that advanced civilizations, separated by a cosmological distance and time, wish to maximize their access to cosmic resources by rapidly expanding into the universe. What sort of boundary forms between their expanding domains, and how does the presence of one limit the ambitions of another?

    We describe a general case for any expansion speed, separation distance, and time. We then specialize to the main question of interest. How are the future prospects for a young and ambitious civilization altered if they can observe the presence of another at a cosmological distance? We treat cases involving the observation of one or two expanding domains.

    In the single-observation case, we find that almost any plausible detection will be limiting to some extent. Also, practical technological limits to expansion speed (well below the speed of light) play an interesting role. If a domain is visible at the time one embarks on expansion, there exists an optimum value for the “practical speed limit,” and if the speed limit is much higher than optimal, one’s future will be severely limited.

    In the case of two visible domains, it is possible to be “trapped” by them if the practical speed limit is high enough and their angular separation in the sky is large enough, i.e. one’s expansion in any direction will terminate at a boundary with the two visible civilizations.

    Comments: 7 pages, 7 figures

    Subjects: Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics (astro-ph.CO); General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology (gr-qc); Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph)

    Cite as: arXiv:1608.07522 [astro-ph.CO]
    (or arXiv:1608.07522v1 [astro-ph.CO] for this version)

    Submission history

    From: Stephan Olson [view email]

    [v1] Fri, 26 Aug 2016 16:56:20 GMT (17132kb,D)


  • ljk October 27, 2016, 10:17

    Three other ways to conduct SETI in addition to radio:

    Kastalia Medrano

    October 25, 2016

    There are four main approaches to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), and we tend to channel most of our energy and resources into only one of them: electromagnetic signals.

    EM signals are special transmissions of radio and/or light that could have been generated by aliens. But, as Forbes noted recently, we also have the ability to study gravitational wave signals, neutrino signals, and macroscopic probes — and it would be a mistake to ignore these pieces in the hunt for other lifeforms.

    We focus on EM signals, in part, because we believe that aliens might be like us: They’ve discovered how to harness the energy of radio waves, and are able to push those signals out into space. Groups like the SETI Institute, and METI International, are dedicated to surveying optical and radio signals and parsing them for signs of alien life (spoiler: pretty much never aliens). They remain the most promising indication we can conceive of — and act on — in terms of locating alien-built civilizations and megastructures. Still, sometimes you want to keep your options open.

    Full article here:


    This article goes into detail about many of the ways we could and should be searching for intelligent extraterrestrial life: