An Interesting SETI Candidate in Hercules

by Paul Gilster on August 27, 2016

A candidate signal for SETI is a welcome sign that our efforts in that direction may one day pay off. An international team of researchers has announced the detection of “a strong signal in the direction of HD164595” in a document now being circulated through contact person Alexander Panov. The detection was made with the RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, in the Karachay–Cherkess Republic of Russia, not far from the border with Georgia in the Caucasus.

The signal was received on May 15, 2015, 18:01:15.65 (sidereal time), at a wavelength of 2.7 cm. The estimated amplitude of the signal is 750 mJy.

No one is claiming that this is the work of an extraterrestrial civilization, but it is certainly worth further study. Working out the strength of the signal, the researchers say that if it came from an isotropic beacon, it would be of a power possible only for a Kardashev Type II civilization. If it were a narrow beam signal focused on our Solar System, it would be of a power available to a Kardashev Type I civilization. The possibility of noise of one form or another cannot be ruled out, and researchers in Paris led by Jean Schneider are considering the possible microlensing of a background source by HD164595. But the signal is provocative enough that the RATAN-600 researchers are calling for permanent monitoring of this target.


Image: The RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Here I’m drawing on a presentation forwarded to me by Claudio Maccone, from which I learn that the team behind the detection was led by N.N. Bursov and included L.N. Filippova, V.V. Filippov, L.M. Gindilis, A.D. Panov, E.S. Starikov, J. Wilson, as well as Claudio Maccone himself, the latter a familiar figure on Centauri Dreams. The work is to be discussed at a meeting of the IAA SETI Permanent Committee, to be held during the 67th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Tuesday, September 27th, 2016,

What we know of HD 164595 is that it is a star of 0.99 solar masses at a distance of roughly 95 light years in the constellation Hercules, and an estimated age of 6.3 billion years. Its metallicity is almost identical to that of the Sun. A known planet in this system, HD 164595 b, is 0.05 Jupiter mass with a period of 40 days, considered to be a warm Neptune on a circular orbit. There could, of course, be other planets still undetected in this system.


Image: Strong signal from the direction of HD 164595. “Raw” record of the signal together with expected shape of the signal for point-like source in the position of HD 164595. Credit: Bursov et al.

From the presentation:

The estimated probability ~2 X 10-4 to simulate the signal from the direction of the HD164595 by signal-like noise is small, therefore HD164595 is good candidate SETI. Permanent monitoring of this target is needed.

All of which makes excellent sense. We can’t claim the detection of an extraterrestrial civilization from this observation. What we can say is that the signal is interesting and merits further scrutiny.


Charles August 31, 2016 at 22:37

Although the presence of ET planetary-based life as we know life and don’t know it, is all, comparatively as, and less and in gradations more technologically and cognitively achieved or advanced than our species, such life, in mathematical and thermochemical terms, is a must on a vast in raw numbers but quite possibly in a low-ratio scale within our own galaxy The Milky Way. Interstellar-planetary celestial travel and communications, different form planetary travel and communications within star clusters, may be extremely inefficient and rare and a restricted in capability to the most advanced species’ civilizations in our galaxy, if not in the universe, to a limited extent for them. We may be detecting hints of the activities of these civilizations with our radio astronomy, or cataclysmic signals associated with or marking large celestial impacts or self-obliterating war on such planets, likely occurring routinely throughout our galaxy, sorry to think and say.

Derith Glover-Meyer September 1, 2016 at 9:08

Suspending disbelief for a minute, and leaving aside the questions of technology and our understanding of physics, what would be the purpose of such a signal? Greeting, warning, cry for help, threat, disclosure, diversion, teaching, teasing?
Or if it was an unintentional signal which coincidentally was aimed in our direction, what could be the cause? War, experiment, diverted signal intended for a different civilization, beacon for their own explorers, byproduct of some technology of theirs which is oblivious to its noise production?
Or what if it is a message from our own future explorers, able to transcend time but not space, sent to inform us of their discovery of a useful planet?

ljk September 1, 2016 at 9:47

The Why of METI and SETI:

Suz September 1, 2016 at 10:26

Once the ‘signal’ started being transmitted from where ever, if real, won’t it be continued. Just as we are now.. focusing on HD 164595 … I can see the 95 year lag in signals before… but now …. signals should be coming in … I don’t believe if there is a receiver on the other end that they would be waiting for us to reply and wait another 95 years.

Harry R Ray September 1, 2016 at 10:37

The Russians just CONFIRMED that the signal came from one of their own military sattalites. CASE CLOSED!

ljk September 1, 2016 at 12:47

If so, then exactly which Russian (I have also read it as being from the Soviet era) military satellite is the culprit? What frequencies does it transmit at? And if it is from the time of the USSR, which means it was launched into space on or before 1991, has it really been able to keep functioning that long? Was it abandoned for a newer model and someone just forgot to (or could not) shut it down?

How come I have not seen any of these questions being asked by the regular media? All I see are regurgitations of the so-called official Russian response – almost as if they were relieved it’s not an alien transmission: Wheh, the “authorities” say it was just a terrestrial satellite, so that’s good enough for me!

Ironically, just a day earlier those same sources were only speculating that it might be a Russian/Soviet spysat, yet now it has become official. Okay, how do they know and which satellite is it? And did the Russian science team at RATAN-600 *confirm* this as well? Because I do not believe I have seen anything from them yet, officially or otherwise.

I had the privilege of interviewing Paul Gilster the other day regarding this whole story here:

As you can see, the science team is going to announce their findings at the annual meeting of the IAA SETI Permanent Committee, to be held during the 67th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, on September 27, 2016.

There is also apparently a paper by them on this event, which I have yet to find:

“SETI observations on the RATAN-600 telescope in 2015 and detection of a strong signal in the direction of HD 164595,” BURSOV N., FILIPPOVA L., FILIPPOV V., GINDILIS L., MACCONE C. et al.

My question is: If the HD 164595 event was just a satellite from this planet built by our species and they happened to detect its signal and mistake it for something alien far away, why would the Russian team wait until the end of this month to tell the world, especially in front of their colleagues at a big science meeting?

What am I missing here? Did they perhaps find something else of significance to astronomical science and want to be ready to tell everyone then? Otherwise if it is not that, and it’s not aliens, and it was just a mistake, why wait?

Harry R Ray September 2, 2016 at 10:13

Here’s how I got my source material: google Click “Technology and Space. Scroll down to “most viewed. The article starts with: “That radio signal that might have been from extraterrestrials? Sorry, it was actually from Earth, Russian scientists confirm,”

Harry R Ray September 2, 2016 at 10:20

OOPS: Don’t click from here. And also use all lower case letters(i.e: Don’t capitalize cbc)>

ljk September 2, 2016 at 11:10

That is just more media repetition from the original source. The questions I have posited above have yet to be answered by the real authorities, the scientists who did the actual detection and science followup.

Harry R Ray September 2, 2016 at 12:58

You’re right. Did some more digging, Apparently “…the Russians…”, or “…Russian scientists…” were OTHER Russian scientists at the Academy Of Sciences who were in no way INVOLVED with the detection, and were just COMMENTING on it!

ljk September 2, 2016 at 14:18

Exactly. They are *suspecting* the signal came from a military satellite, but they do not provide any actual evidence for this. Even if it turns out that the signal did come from a satellite and not 94.5 light years away in a remote star system and they are speaking from factual knowledge, they have not provided any details to the public, so until then it is just speculation.

And as I have said multiple times already, most of the media, the so-called experts, and the general public have accepted the “official” Russian answer without further question and almost as a sense of relief – It’s not aliens! We can go back to thinking we are still the Most Important (and Probably Only) Intelligent Beings in the Whole Universe!

I get the definite feeling that the Russian Academy of Sciences’ authorities are also rather embarrassed at the attention which they probably feel is making them look rather foolish to their peers and other authorities as the concept of aliens still has a stigma with our culture – even though the Soviets were more gung-ho about SETI and METI back in the day than even the Americans.

So they whipped out a quick press release saying it was just a military satellite (one of theirs, of course) and those “silly” scientists made a mistake, so now would everyone please go away? And most people did fall for it because we are trained to obey anyone in a suit or uniform, or lab coat.

Look at how quickly the number of comments have dropped off in this thread. This article has more comments by far than any other topic in Centauri Dreams ever, yet the moment the announcement came out and the press dutifully parroted what they heard, the comments have reduced to a trickle. The plus side of that is perhaps we may go back to more signal than noise, the usual feature and benefit of a comments thread on this blog.

As I said above, please read my linked interview with Paul Gilster. You will see that the Russian team has not revealed all their cards yet, though they said early on they did NOT think it was a satellite (and they should know). Unless there is a leak we will have to wait until later this month, but I suspect they did find something of interest (and it does not necessarily mean those pesky aliens) and thus the reasons for not following SETI protocol, etc.

ljk September 1, 2016 at 13:02

Here is the official Russian statement, in English:

The last two paragraphs are significant. As you can tell they do not reveal much and state that more research needs to be done. Plus we are apparently going to have to wait for the science team to release their results later this month.

Case not closed. Hey regular media, it’s called doing some homework and asking probing questions. Because your lack of these actions only contributed to the hype and confusion. And no, it did not help that the RATAN-600 team waited over a year to tell the world. My question is, why?

john walker September 2, 2016 at 16:30

It seems they collected valid data for the most part as their part of a SETI effort. That’s worth presenting. Just the misinterpretation of one signal is not.
As to why they waited a year well, perhaps they were hopeful despite 38 failures that a confirmation signal could be caught. And now as a result of the leak from Claudio Maccone to Paul Gilster the media has run riot over the ETI possibilities and more importantly several experts have expressed serious doubts. N.N. Bursov and co. may have gotten cold feet. What scientist wants to be associated with something like the FRB010724 debacle? So they maybe made a more stringent systems processing check in the past couple of days, and… poof. Signal gone.

Harry R Ray September 6, 2016 at 9:36

What I am waiting for are the EXACT DATA(not ROUNDED OFF like 2.7 CM or 11GHz) so we can see HOW CLOSE the signal came to e AND the water-maser frequency. This frequency may prove to not only be a magic frequency, but THE MOTHER OF ALL MAGIC FREQUENCIES, due to its DOUBLE-WHAMMY nature. Did the SETI people even KNOW of this co-incidence?

hiro September 1, 2016 at 18:46

Well, the contest of “the most interesting star in our galaxy” (or another example of crying wolf scenario) has just begun; Tabby’s will be on top of the list either next year or in 2018, this cycle will go on and on until a real one shows up or we manage to create a robotic wolf looking real enough to fool ourselves.

In mean time, when a certain new version of AlphaGo has capabilities to beat world #1 professional human Go player who is allowed to make 9 moves before the game starts, we must be forced to think one way or another.

ronny September 1, 2016 at 19:34

If anybody is intrested in the way plants can perceive communication through biological agent. you must contact Stefano mancuso. His First and only scientific lab is preparing a robot that can transmitte and receive informatie by using the biological means from plant. They are likely to use it on Mars. It seems a almost direct Communications. You could compare it with the quantem experiment where as the change of two parts seems to be happening spontanues over Large disctance.

Eta Hayes September 3, 2016 at 22:17

Plant communication is a known given; it’s been suspected for decades but no one was taken seriously until some test recently. I know about it through the pain in the butt of having adopted the no-till gardening technique but I think this study might have been in Nature or something similar. The mechanism by which some plants can communicate thankfully made a lot of sense when I read about it with zero wu-wu involved.

Eta Hayes September 3, 2016 at 22:19

No QT either; I think it was just germs.

Alex Tolley September 4, 2016 at 12:50

It is primarily chemical. A plant can transmit information about the environment via both volatiles from the leaves and other compounds from their roots. This is analogous to the chemical signaling of microbes, e.g. quorum sensing.

Most probably the signaling is based on simple diffusion and concentration. I have sometimes speculated whether plants and fungi that spread in a connected fashion might not be able to detect and transmit responses to patterns of environmental information much like neural networks.

ljk September 6, 2016 at 9:27

This Nautilus article from 2013 delves into this very topic:

Certain insects also communicate via chemicals, while honey bees conduct elaborate “dances” to tell colony mates where flowers are in relation to the Sun and such.

In relation to our attempts to detect and communicate with extraterrestrial beings, it has been long known that mainstream SETI stuck to a few methods (mostly radio) because that is what they often limited themselves to. Others have rightly pointed out that when dealing with alien minds, we need to widen our net if we even want a chance of finding any of them.

The examples with plants should alert SETI folks that assuming alien beings will evolve, think and act as we do will only make the search take that much longer. Interstellar probe missions will make a big difference, of course, but since that is decades off (hey, better than centuries as we mostly recently feared), we need to expand our SETI efforts beyond radio and optical.

Just ask these ants:

Alex Tolley September 6, 2016 at 12:57

While illustrative of our assumptions, the XKCD cartoon probably doesn’t reflect reality. Intelligent ants probably wouldn’t try to use pheromones to try to communicate with distant colonies on a planet, let alone through space, any more that we would use sound. We use radio waves as a medium for a reason. Codes are the key here. Because we increasingly compress our transmissions so that they resemble random signals, I am not so sanguine about discovering alien transmissions not intended for us, for example, communication with an interstellar probe. We may just detect that a signal is artificial, but that is all. No information content.

I was just watching a 2010 BBC documentary on the Drake equation, where Frank Drake shows the original guesses for the variables that result in 50,000 civilizations in the galaxy. But that guesstimate assumed the probability of intelligent technological society of a type that transmits radio waves as we do at 1.0. This probability was backed up by the intelligence of corvids and even an octopus as evidence of such a high probability, even though neither of these animals could come close to manipulating their environment as humans can. Our type of intelligence could be very rare, and if so, we could quite easily be alone in the galaxy. Drake wants to search millions of stars before he will accept that ETI isn’t signaling.

We’re fairly sure that prayer isn’t going to work to attract any evidence of intelligence, however cleverly conceived, concentrated in congregations held in magnificent edifices. I hope that radio telescopic methods are not just as futile.

ljk September 6, 2016 at 14:15

I have never been against Radio SETI, as it does make sense on a number of levels. But even our rather sporadic and token efforts of searching for such signals have shown that aliens are probably not broadcasting non-stop at multiple radio frequencies – or at least let’s just say that aren’t transmitting in a way and amount that even we barely technical and parochial primates couldn’t miss their chatter if we tried.

Add in the fact that we are dealing with ALIEN minds and we should therefore check up and down the electromagnetic spectrum. That it took decades for mainstream SETI to accept searching for laser and infrared pulses for reasons that had little to do with their technological and scientific plausibility is a sad testimony to how the field has been crawling along since 1960 until only recently.

It is now 2016. We know of thousands of actual exoplanets. We can extrapolate from there that almost every star in the Milky Way galaxy has planets of their own. We know complex organic molecules can be found across the Universe. The very idea of alien life is – or should be – no longer culturally shocking or deemed impossible at least. We have advanced technologically in the search realm. Tabby’s Star is waking people up to ideas about ETI that are no longer exclusively versions of us in every respect. It is time to expand our horizons culturally and literally.

And while that $100 million is very nice and has done wonders at legitimizing the field (which it should never have had to to begin with, but ah well), we need to prepare for ramping up SETI, METI, and interstellar exploration once the initial funds run out. Is the science community and others ready for this? Because it is human politics, emotions, and primal beliefs that have kept us from doing proper SETI and deep space travel in the past.

Alex Tolley September 6, 2016 at 17:19

I don’t disagree with anything you say. Listening for signals, whether deliberately broadcast or due to other functions is a relatively cheap thing to do. The piggy back approach using data from other experiments seems very sensible as an approach too.

However, as a biologist, my desires would be more than fulfilled is we found any sort of life elsewhere, whether microbial or multicellular. To do that we need to find a suitable target (biosignatures) and then send probes out there. Because of current physics, we can only really do the nearer stars in the short term. Even one success would be a huge benefit.

Dead artifacts like cities, Dyson structures, etc might be detectable with telescopes, but are probably all too far away to inspect directly. Tantalizing but unreachable. The only hope is to find an artifact in our solar system. Sending out swarms of cheap probes to do extensive, detailed mapping might get lucky, allowing an inspection mission.

ljk September 7, 2016 at 8:30

And I am in agreement with you as well. Speaking of how alien minds might approach doing SETI and METI, it is interesting to note that when Cocconi and Morrison were brainstorming how ETI might send signals into the galaxy in 1959, the first idea they came up with were not radio waves but bursts of gamma radiation.

See here:

The quote:

Cocconi himself explained to Swift that he felt “…a narrow burst of gamma radiation could be a signal that can travel far and straight in galactic space and be peculiar enough to be recognized. And that was the triggering.”

ljk September 2, 2016 at 9:43
Tony Planas September 2, 2016 at 9:59

Simple, it is a bluff! Hehehehe… Gaining fame with this foolish “close encounter” tells how bad we are doing as a “civilization”. If there is another alien civilization more avance than ours, there is no way they want to contact us… The reason is very obvious… Human Beings are an alien civilization very dificult to understand, violent, and lack of common senses… Only in the case we are able to solve our terrestrial “conflicts” and living a life with complete ethical and moral values, then and only then, we will have the chance to discover extraterrestial life. Meanwhile, it is only in our dreams and dreams do not cost anything. When we stop destroying our own “alien life”, then we will be able to have real “close encounters” with other Worlds in this so far “infinite” SPACE, THE FINAL FRONTIER…

ljk September 2, 2016 at 10:29

One more:

At least this upcoming “encounter” with ETI seems more intelligent than most of the press and social media responses to HD 164595 so far:

At least I know it will not disappoint like Interstellar did:

Suz September 2, 2016 at 12:37

question for ljk: what made this signal so interesting. Have we heard this exact signal before… say 1920 or 1977.

ljk September 2, 2016 at 14:43

Not exactly. The reason that the Wow! Signal of 1977 keeps being mentioned with the one reportedly from HD 164595 is that they were both transient. This means they were only detected once and not heard from again. SETI science needs more than one transmission for confirmation. Otherwise the 1977 and 2016 signals are different in the finer details.

ljk September 2, 2016 at 17:06

To add, the other reason the Wow! Signal of 1977 gets mentioned so often is because it has become legendary, even though other suspect transient radio signals have been detected over the years.

For example, the signal detected in 2010 coming from a star named TYC 1220-91-1 was even better than the 1977 signal and deserves far more interest and research than it has gotten.

Zachary September 8, 2016 at 0:24

ljk and all, what would permanent monitoring of TYC 1220-91-1 cost? One of the articles about the star said that

“However, a sufficiently equipped amateur radio astronomer with a big enough dish could perhaps do nothing but look for a repeat of that signal from the vicinity of that star and if the stars aligned (to use a pun) perhaps make the discovery of the ages.”

What would the dish cost and what would it cost per year to operate and analyze?

ljk September 8, 2016 at 10:27

I do not have such numbers at hand, but you might want to ask The SETI League, which has been running a global amateur Radio SETI effort since 1995:

Practiced amateur astronomers can also monitor the skies in the Optical range (infrared, laser pulses), which has been feasible since at least the early 1990s. See here for more information:

ljk September 2, 2016 at 15:01

I may have missed this, but I am surprised that I have not seen a mention of the CTA-102 event of 1965. As explained here:

CTA-102 is a powerful celestial source of radio waves, catalogued in the early 1960s by the California Institute of Technology, and proposed, in 1963, by N. S. Kardashev in the scientifically conservative Astronomical Journal of the USSR as evidence of a Type Two or Type Three Kardashev civilization. A worldwide sensation followed a TASS agency announcement that Gennady Sholomitskii of the Sternberg State Astronomical Institute, following up Kardashev’s idea, had found CTA-102 to be the beacon of a “supercivilization”.1 Shortly after, observations from Palomar Observatory identified CTA-102 with a quasar.


1. Sholomitskii, G. B. “Variability of the Radio Source CTA-102,” Information Bulletin on Variable Stars, Commission 27 of the IAU, no. 83 (February 27, 1965).

I could have sworn that CTA-102 had been detected by RATAN-600, but according to this list of historical SETI projects linked to next, it was detected in a 1963-1964 SETI conducted at the Crimea Deep Space Station by none other than Kardashev himself – apparently only the second official SETI after Ozma in 1960.

How big was the news of this detection at the time? Enough that the rock band The Byrds wrote a song titled C.T.A. 102:

As I have said elsewhere here, the Soviets were much more enthusiastic about SETI back then and far more open to various ideas on how advanced aliens might contact humanity, or otherwise be found by us:

ljk September 2, 2016 at 15:08

A slightly more informative list including Kardashev’s SETI here, with links to two references:

ljk September 2, 2016 at 15:25

I am adding this bit of Soviet SETI history because somewhere earlier in this long thread someone had asked how far a nuclear explosion could be seen in deep space.

Well, none other than Andrei Dmitriyevich Sakharov – the Soviet father of the hydrogen bomb – wrote a letter in 1971 explaining how we might signal ETI by setting off strings of nuclear explosions at the edge of the Sol system:

And who knew that the Soviet space probe Mars 7 was used to conduct Optical SETI! Yes, its lander may have missed the entire planet in 1974 but the probe did do its part in the search for alien beings.

Would love to find more details on that SETI project. Anyone have this paper available to read:

GINDILIS, L.M., DUBINSKIJ, B.A. and RUDNITSKIJ, G.M., “SETI Investigations in the USSR,” paper #IAA-88-544, presented at IAF Congress, Bangalore, India (1988).

john walker September 2, 2016 at 16:03

500 Comments. “Wow” Haha.
Anyway, it’s now the stated opinion of the Skobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics in Moscow that their signal from HD 164595 came from a local source.

ljk September 2, 2016 at 17:00

Read those last two paragraphs carefully. They do not actually reveal much and state that more research needs to be done. Plus we are apparently going to have to wait for the science team to release their results later this month at a science conference in Mexico.

The Russian officials who made that statement are *suspecting* the signal came from a military satellite, but they do not provide any actual evidence for this. Even if it turns out that the signal did come from a satellite and not 94.5 light years away in a remote star system and they are speaking from factual knowledge, they have not provided any details to the public, so until then it is just speculation.

As I have said multiple times elsewhere in this thread, most of the media, the so-called experts, and the general public have accepted the “official” Russian answer without further question and almost as a sense of relief – It’s not aliens! We can go back to thinking we are still the Most Important (and Probably Only) Intelligent Beings in the Whole Universe!

I also get the feeling that the Russian Academy of Sciences’ authorities are somewhat embarrassed at the attention which they probably feel is making them look rather foolish to their peers and other authorities as the concept of aliens still has a stigma with our culture – even though the Soviets were more gung-ho about SETI and METI back in the day than even the Americans.

So they whipped out a quick press release saying it was just a military satellite (one of theirs, of course) and those “silly” scientists made a mistake, so now would everyone please go away? And most people did fall for it because we are trained to obey anyone in a suit or uniform, or lab coat.

The Russian science team has not revealed all their cards yet, though they said early on they did NOT think it was a satellite (and they should know). Unless there is a leak we will have to wait until later this month, but I suspect they did find something of interest – and it does not necessarily mean those pesky aliens.

john walker September 3, 2016 at 6:35

ljk, I sympathize with you. The simple fact is that the RATAN600 is a little decrepid and not currently capable of determining much out of it’s signal. But, that’s not critical. Continued monitoring of HD164595 by more advanced antennae would have been required anyway. Hopefully, that will be done despite the reports of this signal’s terrestrial origin.

Weis September 3, 2016 at 3:27

Is there any content in that signal? If i would send a strong signal i would compress it in order to keep the signal as short as possible.

ljk September 6, 2016 at 9:39

None that we have been made aware of yet. We will have to wait for the annual meeting of the IAA SETI Permanent Committee, to be held during the 67th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, on September 27, 2016. That is when and where the Russian science team is supposed to announce their findings.

There is also apparently a paper by them on this event, which I have yet to find:

“SETI observations on the RATAN-600 telescope in 2015 and detection of a strong signal in the direction of HD 164595,” BURSOV N., FILIPPOVA L., FILIPPOV V., GINDILIS L., MACCONE C. et al.

Erik Landahl September 4, 2016 at 13:38

If HD 164595 is host to a planet with ETI, and if they have FTL communication ability, will they please send me the location of the nearest Pikachu in Pokemon GO?

In seriousness, on the ETI subject, i.e. Tabby’s Star, I am and always have been on ljk’s side of the issues involved. ljk’s analysis is always top drawer.

And when it comes to this topic or any that appears on Centauri Dreams, if Paul Gilster reports it then it is to be taken most seriously. Paul is the best space exploration reporter on this planet. As I’ve said before, we are in a very fortunate place to have Paul Gilster; the articles produced by his interest, effort and ability are unprecedented in quantity and quality.

Paul Gilster September 4, 2016 at 15:11

Eric, you are too kind! I could never claim to be the best at this kind of reporting, but I do love what I do and hope I can keep it up. And I thank you for being a long-term reader who has enriched the site with your comments over the years.

Richard Wikander September 5, 2016 at 4:22

I’d like to second Eric Lindahl’s sentiments.

I’m a retired evolutionary biologist (from UMass/Amherst) with a background in astrophysics. I’ve been interested for many years in exobiology, and also in SETI, and so I’m open-minded in the usual scientific, “horses-not-zebras” way.

I discovered this site a couple of years ago, and needed some time to determine that Centauri Dreams isn’t just another internet colony of crazies. I do appreciate the skeptical, reasoned care with which matters of SETI are approached here.

Paul Gilster September 5, 2016 at 8:28

Thanks so much, Richard. Very pleased to have you here!

Michael C. Fidler September 6, 2016 at 4:12

516 comments, hope someone reads this!
I was thinking that any civilization that had progressed far enough to leave their stellar system would leave some type of marker on their sun after it became a white dwarf or neutron star. Would other civilizations create a monument to their dead sun, like we create monuments to our heroes. Look at all our ancient civilizations that worshiped the sun, I could imagine the sentimental anguish we would feel when our sun becomes a white dwarf. So maybe we should look for something in these ghost stars that may indicate the birth of a great civilization came from this now dead star!

ljk September 6, 2016 at 9:52

Have you read the 1972 science fiction novel titled The Listeners, by James Gunn? The plot involves the reception of a transmission from the star Capella by an ETI that lived in that system. Before their sun went nova, they beamed all their collective knowledge to Earth (and probably other viable star systems they found) to preserve all their society had accumulated. They were apparently unable to physically escape their solar system, so this was their next best method to survive their fate.

This is one of several reasons why we should scan dying star systems in the event anyone living there may have done what the fictional Capellans did in reality. Beings with modern levels of astronomy will know (or should know) what a main sequence dwarf sun expanding into an orange or red giant means for that system.

As for conducting METI by using the physical star itself, you may be interested in reading the works of Luc Arnold here:

and here:

We may also scan the spectrums of various stars to see if any artificial elements not normally found in those giant balls of gas. These signatures could be due to dumping nuclear waste into a star or a deliberate “message” to anyone observing that other smart beings live here, inviting further investigation and hopefully actual contact.

Michael September 6, 2016 at 10:37

Why mourn the sun’s passing when it will give heat for trillions of years to come afterwards, the monument will be our continued orbiting of it.

ljk September 6, 2016 at 13:20

How will we (or likely someone else) stay warm when Sol becomes a white dwarf in several billion years? Assuming we survive our star’s red giant stage? Even when it is hot it will be tough to do, but these stars actually get relatively cool and stay that way for the rest of their existence, right before they become non-radiating black dwarf stars.

See the quote from here:

Most observed white dwarfs have relatively high surface temperatures, between 8,000 K and 40,000 K.[26][64] A white dwarf, though, spends more of its lifetime at cooler temperatures than at hotter temperatures, so we should expect that there are more cool white dwarfs than hot white dwarfs. Once we adjust for the selection effect that hotter, more luminous white dwarfs are easier to observe, we do find that decreasing the temperature range examined results in finding more white dwarfs.[65] This trend stops when we reach extremely cool white dwarfs; few white dwarfs are observed with surface temperatures below 4,000 K,[66] and one of the coolest so far observed, WD 0346+246, has a surface temperature of approximately 3,900 K.[58] The reason for this is that the Universe’s age is finite,[67][68] there has not been enough time for white dwarfs to cool below this temperature. The white dwarf luminosity function can therefore be used to find the time when stars started to form in a region; an estimate for the age of our Galactic disk found in this way is 8 billion years.[65] A white dwarf will eventually, in many trillion years, cool and become a non-radiating black dwarf in approximate thermal equilibrium with its surroundings and with the cosmic background radiation. No black dwarfs are thought to exist yet.[1]

But, hey, ya never know:

Michael September 9, 2016 at 16:32

Our type of star will emit an enormous amount (10 to 50% or 30 000 to 150 000 earth masses!) of very useful materials when it shuffles off it stellar coil, some of it can be captured for us to use. They include an enormous amount of hydrogen and helium 3 as well as oxygen. We could over time move back in closer, WD’s emit heat for a very long time. If we wish to reheat the WD we just add hydrogen for fusion events, they can also be insulated to conserve heat by the adding other gases.

Rob Henry September 11, 2016 at 20:02

Such storage means we forsake the needs of the next few million years, to make the next few billion more prosperous. Considering many other stars will have passed within a few light months of ours during this period, only complete continence that a billion year long ‘let’s stay just because this is our home’ attitude could sustain the economics of such a model.

Michael C. Fidler September 6, 2016 at 23:02

I assume a Kardashev Type 1 or 2 civilization that has left their stellar system.

Michael C. Fidler September 9, 2016 at 23:11

Could the huge variety of Planetary Nebula shapes be because of extraterrestrial civilizations creating a form of art from their dying star? Think about what makes humans so different from the other species on this planet – that one huge differences is to are ability to create art. I’m not just talking about paintings but in almost every thing we create with our imaginations. Maybe this is what we should be looking for when it comes to alien races and what better then the huge planetary nebula’s that can be seen from huge distances and strange variety of shapes and colors. We can even see them in other galaxies beside our own. It would be interesting to look at much younger galaxies and see if they have such a huge variety of shapes.

Derith Glover-Meyer September 10, 2016 at 20:01

As an artist, I love this idea. Can’t leave out the possibility of musical creations and messages, too. They could be playing at a speed we don’t recognize…one tune lasting thousands of years, or an image which can only be viewed by overlaying many single blip patterns. Can we create an algorithm to analyze our receptions from a particular star system over many years to check for some pattern which seems random only when viewed in short bursts?

Michael C. Fidler September 12, 2016 at 7:31

Very good point! Almost every thing we create, from car engines to nuclear bombs is really a form of art. If you look a patents the images are called art, because if you look at people like Tesla, they saw their idea in their imagination. Since we starting drawing on cave walls we have been using art to show things we saw and imagined to others. One of my favorite images that show a surrealistic image that was not created by man is this:
The fascinating possibility the stone age art like Stone Hedge and the Great Pyramids of Egypt, both of which have great astronomical significance, could mean we need to understand better the possibility that the key to finding other civilizations may be by looking for their beautiful art forms.

Michael C. Fidler September 11, 2016 at 22:34

Mystery Alignment of Dying Stars Puzzles Scientists.
These “cosmic butterflies” — actually a certain type of planetary nebula — all have their own formation histories, and they don’t interact with each other. But something is apparently making them dance in step
They found most of these objects to be scattered more or less randomly across the sky, but one type — the bipolar nebulae, which have distinctive butterfly or hourglass shapes that are thought to result when jets blast material away from a dying star perpendicular to its orbit — showed a surprising alignment.
“The alignment we’re seeing for these bipolar nebulae indicates something bizarre about star systems within the central bulge,”Rees said. “For them to line up in the way we see, the star systems that formed these nebulae would have to be rotating perpendicular to the interstellar clouds from which they formed, which is very strange.”
Makes you kind of wonder!
Astronomers in South Africa discover mysterious alignment of black holes

Michael C. Fidler September 12, 2016 at 2:05

Alignment of the Angular Momentum Vectors of Planetary Nebulae in the Galactic Bulge; Original article:

Michael C. Fidler September 12, 2016 at 2:12

This article was in New Scientist over two years before (May, 2011) the report was published!
DAILY NEWS 11 May 2011
Ghostly nebulae show mysterious alignment

Michael C. Fidler September 12, 2016 at 2:28

Apparently this has s little history to it. So does this mean that most of the advanced civilizations are closer to the center of the milky way ? That would seem to make sense since there are more older stars in that direction!
“The Spatial Orientation of Planetary Nebulae Within the Milky Way.”
Walter A. Weidmann, Ruben J. Diaz
(Submitted on 5 May 2005 (v1), last revised 19 Mar 2008 (this version, v2))

Michael C. Fidler September 12, 2016 at 6:33

Extending Galactic Habitable Zone Modeling to Include the Emergence of Intelligent Life.

“Even under the assumption that long time durations are required between sterilizations to allow for the emergence of intelligence, our model suggests that the inner Galaxy provides the greatest number of opportunities for intelligence to arise. This is due to the substantially higher number density of habitable planets in this region, which outweighs the effects of a higher supernova rate in the region. Our model also shows that φI is increasing with time. Intelligent life emerged at approximately the present time at Earth’s galactocentric radius, but a similar level of evolutionary opportunity was available in the inner Galaxy more than 2 Gyr ago. Our findings suggest that the inner Galaxy should logically be a prime target region for searches for extraterrestrial intelligence and that any civilizations that may have emerged there are potentially much older than our own.

Michael C. Fidler September 14, 2016 at 10:18

How the Universe is trying to communicate with us???
Photonic Bell states creation around rotating black holes.

Bell states measure the degree of clesorrelation (entanglement) between the two qubits encoded by the X-ray photons and are strongly related to the spinning speed of the black holes. The faster the black hole spins, the louder and clearer the quantum message the black hole is sending to the vast Universe.
In the recent program Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), China launched the first quantum communication satellite, designed to connect us to a future global quantum information network. This endeavor raises the hope that the recent future will connect us to the Universe’s quantum information network. For instance, it is known that spinning black holes send information about their states that we cannot “hear” yet. Expanding our knowledge on quantum information is a step forward in understanding how the Universe is trying to communicate with us.

Harry R Ray September 6, 2016 at 9:38

SORRY: I meant ONE HALF the water-maser frequency.

Michael C. Fidler September 7, 2016 at 9:38

Peculiarities in White Dwarfs and Ultracool Brown Dwarfs.
Solar Abundances of Rock Forming Elements, Extreme Oxygen and Hydrogen in a Young Polluted White Dwarf

They surveyed 28 percent of the sky and found the 165 ultracool brown dwarfs, about a third of which have unusual compositions or other peculiarities, and so didn’t show up on earlier surveys.

ljk September 7, 2016 at 12:59

Galactic Model Simulates How ET Civilizations Could Be Deliberately Avoiding Earth

One hypothesis suggests that extraterrestrials haven’t contacted Earth because they’re ignoring us. Now astronomers have simulated how difficult that would be to do.

by Emerging Technology from the arXiv September 6, 2016

Full article here:

The paper:

Could there be a Galactic Federation if the members are so diverse in so many fundamental ways? Is such an organization even necessary, to say nothing of possible? Is this just more human thinking and behavior projected into the Cosmos?

Can there even be a Prime Directive under such conditions? Even Kirk broke that rule whenever the situation suited him. The Ferengi though the PD was not only foolish but deeply unprofitable. And if there are advanced civilizations out there, don’t we have the right to better technology, medicine, knowledge, etc., if it will improve who we are? Is keeping such things from less sophisticated cultures a protective measure or an oppressive one?

Alex Tolley September 7, 2016 at 14:38

This assumes, of course, that communications are indeed limited by c. I hope this isn’t as silly as remote islanders assuming communications must be by smoke signals or drum beating.

It is useful that this model puts serious constraints on the zoo hypothesis idea.

Resonanz September 7, 2016 at 14:14

The article model could include Poission distribution statistics to additionally (sub-model) ‘clumping’ of ET civilizations and perhaps extend to critical thresh holds of associative size.

hiro September 10, 2016 at 18:29

Tracy-Widom distribution is the best method from my biased point of view.

Searching for black swans in Northern Europe doesn’t help either, modern instruments are useless as long as the outdated concepts monopolize the entire program.

ljk September 8, 2016 at 14:01

“China May Be Earth’s First Nation to Detect Alien Life” — Poised to Flip ‘On’ Switch of Earth’s Largest, Most Powerful Radio Telescope

September 08, 2016

China is ready to put on the ear phones and flip the “on” switch for the world’s largest, most powerful radio telescope, that is nearing completion in a vast, bowl-shaped valley in the mountainous southwestern province of Guizhou by the end of September, accompanied by regulations to protect the facility. Its unrivaled precision will allow astronomers to survey the Milky Way and other galaxies and detect faint pulsars, and work as a powerful ground station for future space missions.

“A radio telescope is like a sensitive ear, listening to tell meaningful radio messages from white noise in the universe,” said Nan Rendong, chief scientist of the FAST project. He told Xinhua that the huge dish will enable much more accurate detection. “It is like identifying the sound of cicadas in a thunderstorm.”

“Having a more sensitive telescope, we can receive weaker and more distant radio messages,” Wu Xiangping, director-general of the Chinese Astronomical Society, “It will help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy and explore the origins of the universe,” he added underscoring the China’s race to be the first nation to discover the existence of an advanced alien civilization.

Full article here:

To quote:

According to chief scientist from China’s National Astronomical Observations, Li Di, FAST will be able to scan up to twice more areas of the sky than Arecibo shown above, and it will have between three to five times the sensitivity. It’s in their hopes that if there is indeed alien life, this gargantuan will find it.

Michael September 11, 2016 at 12:44

Interestingly there is a bright red feature near this star, click on 2MASS on the image and you will see it and there are a number of stars around it so a lensing event is not out of the question.

Michael September 11, 2016 at 14:00

Ignore the red bit it is an optical artifact of the image.

ljk September 12, 2016 at 10:39

Here’s Why We Haven’t Picked Up Alien Television Shows (Yet)

We only just developed the technology to start watching.

Alasdair Wilkins September 10, 2016

It’s one of the go-to ways to understand how we broadcast our presence to the wider universe: The premiere of I Love Lucy aired in 1951, meaning the radio signals have been traveling through space for 65 year. Since those signals travel at the speed of light, an alien civilization 65 light-years away could theoretically be tuning in right now to see Lucy and Ethel try to get their husbands take them to the Copacabana. But exactly how theoretical is that “theoretically”? And could humans someday tune into television shows from distant stars?

“So we are just right now at that stage where we could detect television,” SETI astronomer Dan Werthimer told Inverse at last weekend’s Star Trek: Mission New York event. “Television is actually one of the harder things for us to pick up if they have just like our television. Because the problem with television is that it goes off in all directions, it’s an omnidirectional transmitter… It gets pretty weak pretty fast. And so right now we just with this new program have the ability to pick up if they have something like television. We can pick it up on the nearby stars, just barely.”

Full article here:

Harry R Ray September 16, 2016 at 9:31

Can we NOW detect and UNSCRMBLE any possible omnidirectional TV eminating from Proxima b?

Derith Glover-Meyer September 16, 2016 at 14:09

Your cable bill would be astronomical.

Harry R Ray September 18, 2016 at 16:00

Yeah, and there will probably be LEGAL ISSUES, TOO! Would we have to get PERMISSION, FIRST? If we don’t, and are THEN SUCCESSFUL, could they SUE US in our court system, or would this, on a GALACTIC BASIS, a CRIMINAL CASE to be disposed of on KIC8462852, Megastructure # @#&^^(^#@@)&&? LOL(I HOPE!)

ljk September 12, 2016 at 10:42

Why SETI Scientists Are Putting on an Art Show

It’s a collaboration that’s both grounded and out-of-this-world. [I am so, so tired of that latter phrase. It stopped being clever ages ago.]

Sarah Sloat

September 11, 2016

In May 2010, Charles Lindsay was the artist-in-residence at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. He ran into Jill Tarter, former director of SETI Research and the inspiration behind the film Contact; they instantly became friends. Tarter invited Lindsay to hang out at the SETI observatory in Northern California and he was struck with a thought.

“We’re out under the stars and I said, ‘You know, you’ve got about 70 of the world’s top astro-scientists. Why don’t you have an artist?,’ recalls Lindsay.

It might seem like a non-sequitor — How does the search for aliens require art? — but Tarter and Lindsey took their combined talents to heart. Today, the Artist in Residence (AIR) Program at the SETI Institute is an institution of about six artists who work closely with SETI scientists for two years. Designed to integrate art and the science, the goal of the program is to “expand upon the SETI Institute’s mission to explore, understand, and explain the origin, nature, and prevalence of life in the universe.”

Full article here:

To quote:

“One of the many missions of the institute is to consider the possibility of an encounter with extraterrestrial life,” says Wilner. “So one of the questions I posed was, if we potentially were to encounter something, how does one communicate with another being of some sort? And within my proposal, part of what I said was that the way we communicate is with language, and language is more than just semantics and syntax — it’s about a relationship. If we are to ever have successful communication [with extraterrestrial beings], then these psychoanalytic issues would be relevant to that kind of encounter.”

ljk September 14, 2016 at 9:41

Big universe, eerie silence: Thoughts on the search for aliens in space

By Joel Achenbach

September 13, 2016 at 10:51 AM

Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute and one of my all-time favorite people in the space world — he’s funny, smart, available and always ready to produce a punchy quote on deadline — dropped by The Washington Post on Monday for a Facebook Live chat about the efforts to make contact with alien civilizations. (We were supposed to have the conversation remotely a couple of weeks ago, but we couldn’t get the phone link between Washington and California to work properly. There might be a lesson in that.)

We talked about the Fermi Paradox: “Where are they?” Enrico Fermi at Los Alamos in 1950 posed the question over lunch, reasoning that aliens should have long ago showed up to visit if, in fact, they are out there. The UFO mythology is unpersuasive, leaving us with this cosmic mystery. Maybe they are just not there.

Shostak is among those who thinks that they are surely there and that we just need to keep listening. SETI, named for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, goes back to 1960, when Frank Drake turned a radio telescope at Green Bank, W.Va., toward two nearby sun-like stars. What we heard then, and have heard ever since, is what Paul Davies calls the “eerie silence.” Shostak remains confident we’ll succeed eventually in detecting the presence of ETI. Eight years ago, in a speech, he bet a cup of Starbucks coffee for everyone in the room that it would happen within 25 years.

Full article here:

To quote:

Speaking of those other galaxies: The universe is not really designed for communication. It’s too big. The stars are too far apart for large, meat-based creatures to travel around easily. We can’t even exchange messages without a significant time delay. You run into the Einstein speed limit. Information can’t move faster than the speed of light. If there are aliens on Proxima b, the nearest planet beyond our solar system, we would have an eight-year [I originally wrote “eight-minute,” which of course is more like communication with Mars! – No, it’s more like communication with Sol.] time lag between our initial message of “How’s it goin’?” and the alien response of “Fine.”

I’m not complaining about the size of the universe. That would be kind of futile. That’s an issue way above my pay grade. As Lawrence Krauss puts it: The universe is what it is.

Derith Glover-Meyer September 16, 2016 at 14:06

Could the geomagnetic field be acting as a big pair of noise-cancelling headphones for certain types of signals? I am thinking that the most likely meaningful signals would be used for interstellar or galactic travellers, living or robotic. Birds, turtles, and other animals can use magnetic information to navigate here on earth. Why not some sort of field-manipulating communication system out there? Or messages relayed by subtly changing the stellar wind emitted by the nearest sun in some sort of morse code? But how would we detect these, since our magnetic fields protect us?

ljk September 30, 2016 at 9:24

That is why we need space-base SETI projects searching multiple regions across the electromagnetic spectrum.

ljk September 22, 2016 at 11:48

China activates FAST radio telescope:

To quote:

“China’s latest telescope will be able to look faster and further than past searches for extraterrestrial intelligence,” says Douglas Vakoch, president of METI International, an organization dedicated to detecting alien intelligence.

The world’s largest telescope set in the mountainous landscape of southwest China will be completed this week with a huge 1,640 feet (500 meter) wide dish the size of 30 football fields, the the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, starts operation September 25. The massive ear will able to detect radio signals — and potentially signs of life — from distant planets.

“FAST’s potential to discover an alien civilization will be five to 10 times that of current equipment, as it can see farther and darker planets,” Peng Bo, director of the NAO Radio Astronomy Technology Laboratory, told Xinhua.

FAST has a field of vision is almost twice as big as the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico that has been the world’s biggest single aperture telescope for the past 53 years. Russia’s RATAN-600 telescope is larger than FAST by diameter with panels arranged in a 576 meter wide ring — but it’s not one single dish and its collection area is much smaller than FAST and Arecibo.

Harry R Ray September 25, 2016 at 14:00

I believe that, AT THIS VERY MOMENT, that is NOT the case, although I an sure it will be very soon. Here?s why: The NEW software package on the Green Bank scope(from which Boyajian, Weight et al will be observing Boyajian’s star in a week or so)makes it hundreds of times more sensitive than before, and it may be a while before something COMPERABLE is installed on the NEW scope. In my wilddest dreams, BOTH SCOPES will be observing Boyajian’s Star SIMULTANEOUSLY!

ljk September 30, 2016 at 9:29

Yesterday’s APOD featured FAST, with lots of useful links:

Five Hundred Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope

Image Credit & Copyright: Jeff Dai (TWAN)

Explanation: The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) is nestled within a natural basin in China’s remote and mountainous southwestern Guizhou province. Nicknamed Tianyan, or the Eye of Heaven, the new radio telescope is seen in this photograph taken near the start of its testing phase of operations on September 25.

Designed with an active surface for pointing and focusing, its enormous dish antenna is constructed with 4,450 individual triangular-shaped panels. The 500 meter physical diameter of the dish makes FAST the largest filled, single dish radio telescope on planet Earth.

FAST will explore the Universe at radio frequencies, detecting emission from hydrogen gas in the Milky Way and distant galaxies, finding faint galactic and extragalactic pulsars, and searching for potential radio signals from extraterrestrials.

ljk September 30, 2016 at 9:26

As I was searching the Internet in hopes of finding this paper finally being online:

“SETI observations on the RATAN-600 telescope in 2015 and detection of a strong signal in the direction of HD 164595,” BURSOV N., FILIPPOVA L., FILIPPOV V., GINDILIS L., MACCONE C. et al.

I came across these two fairly recent papers on SETI which are online here:

ET Probes: Looking Here as Well as There

SETI at X-ray Energies – Parasitic Searches from Astrophysical Observations

ljk September 30, 2016 at 9:26

From the tweet:

#B_Listen science team @UCBerkeley publish raw data from obs of star HD 164595, in direction of signal heard in May, 2015:

To quote:

Breakthrough Listen is the most powerful search yet for signatures of extraterrestrial technology, and uses the world’s most powerful telescopes to scan the skies for signs of life. A commitment from Breakthrough Initiatives (, the project’s sponsors, is to make as much data as possible available to the public, and the team at Berkeley agrees that openness and transparency are extremely important. Although data volumes are large, and formats are technical, we are today releasing the raw data from our observations of HD 164595 into the Breakthrough Listen archive for independent analysis by anyone with appropriate technical experience.

Most of the GBT data in the archive are in filterbank format (see our github page about data formats at, and an iPython notebook demonstrating how to import these files into Python ( Since the HD 164595 observations were undertaken in a raster scanning mode (to match the way that the original RATAN-600 data were taken) rather than our usual “on-off” mode where the telescope alternates between target positions, filterbank files cannot be generated for this particular set of observations. We are therefore releasing the raw “baseband” data for HD 164595 into the archive.

ljk October 3, 2016 at 11:03

How a Couple of Guys Built the Most Ambitious Alien Outreach Project Ever

You might think it takes vast governmental resources to launch an extraterrestrial communication effort. Nope

By Michael Chorost

September 26, 2016

On May 24, 1999, a large radio transmitter in the city of Evpatoria in Ukraine turned its dish to the star 16 Cygni, 70 light-years away, and emitted a four-hour blast of radio waves. It was the beginning of the Cosmic Call, one of the most ambitious efforts ever made at sending a message to alien civilizations.

It wasn’t a project run by NASA or some major government. It was a crowdsourced effort, put together by an unlikely team of Texan businessmen, Canadian astrophysicists, Russian scientists, and Eastern European radio engineers.

Full article here:

To quote:

And Alexander Zaitsev, a prominent astronomer at the Russian Academy of Science, was glad to be involved. Zaitsev had used the Evpatoria transmitter for years to study Venus, Mars, Mercury, and several asteroids. But he also had a deep interest in SETI. He agreed to oversee the sending of the Cosmic Call from Ukraine. And with that, a DIY alien outreach project was born.

Zaitsev had to exercise some diplomatic delicacy. In 1999 memories of the Cold War were still fresh, and there were tensions over how the Americans were intervening against the Serbs during the war in the former Yugoslavia. “[Evpatoria] is the middle of nowhere,” Chafer says. “It’s a base that was used to track Russian satellites that were used in submarine communications out of Sevastopol. It was a very highly sensitive military base.”

So it was politically awkward for the Cosmic Call team visiting Evpatoria to be led by Americans. But one of Team Encounter’s employees was Romanian, and one of its guests was Danish. So Zaitsev decided that the Cosmic Call team was a Romanian and Danish delegation with two American observers. Chafer recalls, “[Zaitsev] gets the gold star for making it happen. I mean, literally everybody he was dealing with had a uniform on, and here comes this Danish Romanian delegation with two American visitors.”


But the drawback of freelance projects like Cosmic Call is that there’s no institution to preserve a memory of them. The message hasn’t been particularly well-archived. (Sadly, Stéphane Dumas died unexpectedly in August 2016.) It would be embarrassing if we got a reply in 2069 and no one could remember what we had sent. All of the websites that had archived it have disappeared, except for an incomplete remnant preserved here by an Internet archive. The only documents that show the primers are PDFs buried on obscure websites. The 1999 primer is here, and both the 1999 and 2003 primers are explained here.

So one of humanity’s most intellectually ambitious interstellar messages, and so far the one most likely to get where it’s going, was written by two people, Dutil and Dumas. There’s a lesson there. If we ever receive a message from another civilization, it may not be from a committee of its august wise heads (or whatever they have instead of heads.) It may not be from their equivalent of the United Nations or United Federation of Planets.

A civilization modestly more developed than ours could be using Evpatoria-class transmitters for the local equivalent of high-school science projects. In other words, Earth’s long-awaited first message from aliens, if it ever comes, could basically be from a couple of guys.

ljk October 11, 2016 at 9:23

A not-so-simple response: Messages beamed to aliens amid an international debate over perils

by Alan Boyle on October 10, 2016 at 1:03 pm

More than 3,000 messages were beamed toward the North Star today by a powerful radio telescope – and although the exercise was largely symbolic, it serves to revive a debate over whether we should be trying to contact aliens.

Today’s transmission by the European Space Agency’s Cebreros deep-space tracking station in Spain was the culmination of a yearlong effort known as “A Simple Response to an Elemental Message,” spearheaded by Irish-born artist Paul Quast.

With support from ESA and other organizations, Quast and his collaborators solicited 3,775 text-only messages from around the world in response to this question: How will our present environmental interactions shape the future? The 14-minute digital transmission with all those answers was beamed toward Polaris, the North Star, at 8 p.m. GMT (1 p.m. PT).

Full article here:

To quote:

This month, METI International’s Doug Vakoch provided a not-so-simple response in Nature Physics.

On one hand, he noted that we’ve already been broadcasting our existence for decades. “If we are in danger of an alien invasion, it’s too late,” he wrote.

On the other hand, Vakoch argued that there’s a potential cost to staying silent – “for example, missing guidance that could enhance our own civilization’s sustainability, or averting attacks from aliens who would otherwise annihilate us for not reaching out.”

The arguments stray into the kind of science-fiction territory covered by Hollywood movies like the soon-to-be-released “Arrival.” But Vakoch had a down-to-earth suggestion for future messages to extraterrestrial intelligence, a.k.a. METI.

“Scientists already have a process for judging the merit of METI projects: peer review,” Vakoch said. “Decisions about allocating time for METI at publicly funded observatories should rely on the same procedure used for competing experiments.”

ljk October 11, 2016 at 9:28

Review: Waiting for Contact

Efforts to search for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations entered a new chapter last year with a $100-million private donation. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines both the long, and sometimes difficult, history of SETI projects as well as the motivation for scanning the skies.

Monday, October 10, 2016

To quote:

The continued operation of the Green Bank Observatory as an independent entity—with some, but reduced, NSF support—is made possible in part by a private initiative called Breakthrough Listen. The project, announced last year (see “A funding breakthrough for SETI”, The Space Review, August 17, 2015), plans to spend $100 million over ten years to fund efforts in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), including about 20 percent of the observing time at Green Bank.

“The idea here was to revitalize the SETI search,” said Pete Worden, the former director of NASA’s Ames Research Center and current chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, in a talk September 29 at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Mexico. The Breakthrough Listen effort is supporting searches at several telescopes, and Worden said the group is in discussions with several other observatories, including China’s new 500-meter telescope.

“We haven’t done much of a search,” he said of past SETI efforts, which he said were limited in the frequencies they observed or parts of the sky searched. “Based on this, we decided there’s a lot to do now.”


“This is what we’re trying to do, is to do a reasonably complete search in frequencies as well as in space,” Worden said at last month’s IAC. The implications of a detection are obvious; what’s less clear is what the future of SETI is, as a scientific field or even a school of thought, if Breakthough Listen fails to hear anything.

ljk October 20, 2016 at 9:22

Either Stars are Strange, or There Are 234 Aliens Trying to Contact Us

Published: 19 October 2016

by Evan Gough

To quote:

The 234 stars in Borra and Trottier’s study aren’t random. They’re “overwhelmingly in the F2 to K1 spectral range” according to the abstract. That’s significant because this is a small range centred around the spectrum of our own Sun. And our own Sun is the only one we know of that has an intelligent species living near it. If ours does, maybe others do too?

The authors acknowledge five potential causes of their findings: instrumental and data reduction effects, rotational transitions in molecules, the Fourier transform of spectral lines, rapid pulsations, and finally the ETI signal predicted by Borra (2012). They dismiss molecules or pulsations as causes, and they deem it highly unlikely that the signals are caused by the Fourier analysis itself. This leaves two possible sources for the detected signals. Either they’re a result of the Sloan instrument itself and the data reduction, or they are in fact a signal from extra-terrestrial intelligences.

Scott Anthony October 24, 2016 at 21:07

So which of the 21 hypotheses in the Fermi Paradox wikipedia article do you subscribe to? Personally, I trend toward:

A more interesting question is (who cares what you or I each alone think), if a poll were to be taken in the astrophysics community, which hypothesis would get the most “votes.” Because therefore it might be interesting to “play” that angle. The planetarium scenario for example would have to relate directly to the social situation of us, here, and I’m not thinking particularly about the upcoming cough-cough election – though of course that too – but rather the general world-wide network of essentially criminal gangs that control all the turf on Earth (perhaps one or two exceptions such as the benign monarchy of Bhutan, some South Sea specks, etc), all based on Patriarchy.
Kind of philosophical I know, but on the other hand “we” from “another point of view” are “astronomical objects” also! What happens here has cosmic significance too. Crowd-sourcing the death of this failed system may yield as much or more consequence as telescope time! But don’t stop looking either! Look more, even!

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