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‘Planetary torch’: Earth’s laser tech could be used to lure alien communications – study

‘Planetary torch’: Earth’s laser tech could be used to lure alien communications – study
Existing laser technology could be used to fashion a planetary ‘porch light’ for Earth to attract aliens astronomers from as far as 20,000 light years away into communicating with us, according to a new study.

The epic project, described as “challenging, but not impossible,” would require a massive 30-45 meter telescope aimed at space and a high-powered 1-2 megawatt laser. The researchers claim the combination would produce a beam of infrared radiation so strong it could stand out from the sun’s energy.

Such a signal could be detectable by alien astronomers performing a cursory survey of our section of the Milky Way,” according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research team.

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Their paper on the proposed space beacon has been published in The Astrophysical Journal.  

The ‘porch light’ could be particularly useful to attract any neighborly alien astronomers living close by – perhaps around Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth, or TRAPPIST-1, the star located some 40 light-years away that’s host to seven exoplanets, three of which are potentially habitable.

If the beam were to be noticed, it could also be used to send Morse code-like messages in the form of pulses.

If we were to successfully close a handshake and start to communicate, we could flash a message, at a data rate of about a few hundred bits per second, which would get there in just a few years,” says James Clark, author of the study.

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However Clark acknowledges that a megawatt laser could pose some safety concerns; it could damage people’s vision if they looked directly at it, for one. It could also potentially scramble any camera aboard a spacecraft that happens to pass through it.

He says the research was a primarily a “feasibility study,” whether or not it’s actually a good idea, he says, is a “discussion for future work.”

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