What if we find alien life...should we make contact? A General overview of where we're at - and an intial Delve into what happens nexT.

This is purely a speculative post.....

For over two decades now, since the very first discovery of an exoplanet, we've been spotting exoplanets...but none - has stirred the curiosity of Earth based astronomers like KIC8462852 (also now known as Tabby's Star). The odd nature of this star, came to light in September 2015 - when astronomers were using Kepler to look for dips in a stars brightness, from any planet orbiting it...

Stars, compared to planets are enormous...so these fluctuations are usually minute - for example - even a planet like Jupiter...passing in front of our Sun, only results in a 1% change....

And yet, astronomers saw Kic8462852's brightness - dropping by 22% - something...that had never been witnessed before.....

Jupiter passing our Sun

What pushed this information into the news, is that some astronomers suggested that the cause of this drop in luminosity - may be because of aliens....

Since the drop was to big to be caused by a planet - it was suggested that some huge megastructure - created by an alien civilisation...might be blotting out the light of the star.

Maybe....

Of course, there are/were less fantastical suggestions for why this may be happening - it was suggested that a large mass of comets, may be the reason for this dimming - Loiusiana's State Universities Bradley Schaefer...disagrees.....

Are aliens building a structure around Tabby's Star (©NASA/JPL-Caltech)?

After examining the available data - going back for over a century....to account for the dimming - over 650,000 massive comets would have had to have passed the star in this time to cause the dimming - something he suggested was "completely implausible"......

The astronomers behind the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence - SETI project, pointed the array of the Allen Telescope Array - hoping to hear something...."we found no evidence of an extraterrestrial civilisation at the end of the telescope", say's SETI's Douglas Vakoch.

It's likely, that the discovery of KIC8462852, and its dimming is NOT caused by an extraterrestrial civilisation....BUT - that maybe about to change....

A BIGGER, BETTER ATTEMPT AT GETTING TO THE TRUTH IS NOW BEING SUGGESTED....

Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire - Yuri Milner announce a $100m initiative to dramatically accelerate the search for extraterrestrial life.

Our quest to learn if we are alone is about to kick into OVERDRIVE!

A 10 year project, billed as the biggest scientific undertaking for the search for intelligent life - began in February this year.

Using two of the largest radio telescopes on the planet - the 100m Green Bank Telescope in the US and the 64m Parkes Telescope in Australia...the search will be 50 times more sensitive and cover 10 times the amount of sky than before....

The Parke's and Green Bank telescopes respectively.

They will listen to frequency ranges 5 times greater and scan through them 100 times faster than before. They will listen in on the million closest stars for the merest hint of a civilisation. The search will be sensitive enough to pick up a radar signal from a plane on the nearest 1000 stars that have planets that are the closest to Earth....

The pair have also announced Project Starshot - which will send tiny probes to search for habitable planets in the nearest star system to us - Alpha Centauri.

Project Starshot link below.

We now live in a time of exoplanet astronomy....with around 2000 confirmed alien worlds beyond the Galaxy. From what we've found so far - astronomers estimate that there could be 60 billion habitable planets in our Milky Way.

Earth 2.0, are you out there?

A famous equation, formulated by Frank Drake - suggests some of them....maybe host to intelligent life....

The Drake Equation...

"The search, doesn't seem as futile as in the past"...says University of Portsmouth's Bob Nichol, a member of the U.K. SETI Research Network.

As well as looking for radio signals, they will also seek out laser transmissions. But with all this anticipation about finding alien signals....what would we do if we found one?

CONFIRMING FIRST CONTACT

© Columbia Pictures

Should we pick up a signal - the first obstacle will be to show that it definitely comes from something else. To start with, you'd have to put a low probability on it being "alien"....once you've ruled out all other possibilities - it's important (vitally) that some checks are made - the first being....is it repeatable?

If the signal is a "one-off"...unless it's extraordinarily specific - then it'll be very hard to tell anything about it. This is clearly demonstrated by the "WOW" signal, heard in August 1977 - an intense radio burst that lasted 72 seconds, and at a frequency that is very close to the one that SETI researchers believe an alien race might attempt to communicate on.....

But, despite several attempts since - no repeat of the signal has been discovered coming from that part of the sky.

If the discoverer(s) of a signal, cannot find anything to rule out aliens, it'll then be thrown out to other astronomers - who'll do their best to prove its not ET....any suspected signal, would come under extreme scrutiny.....

If extraterrestrial technology remains the only plausible explanation - then according to the official ETI Signal Detection protocol (see link below) - that information should be passed to the UN Secretary General, as well as a host of other international organisations. The frequency at which the signal was discovered will be protected to keep the channel free of any radio clutter - and no reply is to be sent until international consensus on the matter is reached.

Link for the ETI Signal Detection protocol.

It's fantastic that we'd have a confirmed artificial signal from an alien race elsewhere in the cosmos - but if it's a deliberate message....how will we know what it says? Logically, they're unlikely to be fluent in any Earth language....but - civilisations, within a few light years from Earth, would have received decades' worth of radio signals from Earth...

So perhaps the message needs to be more deliberate?

It's been suggested that mathematics might be the language of choice for interstellar gossip....initial contact could be made by beaming out a radio message encoding the list of prime numbers or even the Fibonacci sequence. Once us, and our new found cosmic friends know we can both speak the same language....maths - we could use binary numbers to send more detailed messages, such as pictures.

SHOULD WE CALL BACK?

Much would depend on the contents of the message....obviously - detecting the existence of advanced alien technology on a far distant planet...is far different from an aggressive message threatening imminent invasion. A survey from 1997 found that 84% of respondents believed aliens would turn out to be friendly - rather than hostile....

Hopefully, they'll be "friendly".......© Columbia Pictures

Perhaps we can learn from our reaction to extraterrestrial aggression from Orson Wells' famous War Of The Worlds broadcast from 1938.

The radio version of the story, was supposed to be so realistic - that many people actually mistook it as factual and believed aliens really were invading. It was similarly broadcast in Ecuador in 1949.....crazed crowds, took to the streets - and at least six people ended up dead.

Complete broadcast of War Of The Worlds - 1938 (57 minutes)

If the message received - does not threaten imminent invasion - our biggest problem will be whether or not to send a reply?

And that question - absolutely divides astronomers....

Now that our search for extraterrestrial intelligence is about to move up a level - thanks to Breakthrough Listen - this question, amongst others -we are going to have to tackle properly...

There may be rules for how the scientific community should deal with any suspected signal - what the rest of us should do or how we are going to feel is anyone's guess...

So the question remains....SHOULD WE MAKE CONTACT WITH ALIEN LIFE?

Latest update: 26th July 2017....http://flip.it/oBiKsq

Sooner or later....the numbers suggest - we will have to make that decision...

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