Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena aside, the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life is actually concentrated on finding signatures of technology — whether it be a far off radio signal or a laser beam — that come from interstellar space.
And now, a new preprint paper lays out a theory for one such signal that combines this basic idea with another mystery of astronomy, namely why some planets have weird orbits around a star that defies old models of solar system formation, reports themessenger.com.
The theory, which has not been validated by the peer-review process, goes like this: Extraterrestrial intelligent life may be using lasers to gradually move their planet into new orbits around a star to make them more hospitable to life. If we can’t detect the laser signal or other technology, the scientists write, then we could look at these oddly orbiting exoplanets and narrow down the search.
Signals made by technology are known as technosignatures, and scientists believe that they could be given off by various alien structures and machines. They are an intriguing area for researchers, because it should be relatively easy to tell if something has a natural origin or not based on the laws of physics and what we know about the universe.
In the paper, the researchers describe how, in 2015, a distant star called KIC 8462852 was observed to have unexplainable variations in its brightness. Some scientists hypothesized the variations may be caused by a Dyson sphere, a completely theoretical megastructure which would harvest the star’s energy as a kind of battery that was first explored in detail by physicist Freeman Dyson in the 1960s.
The mystery of KIC 8472852 inspired the scientists behind this paper to hypothesize that building a Dyson sphere to sustain a civilization would require so much raw material that it would use up all the mass of an Earth-size planet, but all the mass of all the planets in a solar system.
Instead, the scientists propose it would be more efficient for an advanced extraterrestrial intelligence to use powerful lasers to blast a planet from one orbit to another in order to maintain habitability and access new resources.
While this idea may help us find out if we’re alone in the universe, the authors suggest we might want to keep it in mind given the current state of things here on Earth. The authors lay out their theory in relation to moving Mars or Pluto closer to Earth in order to access resources or to colonize using this technology, should humans create a powerful enough laser.
“Considering that in just the last 100 years the world population and consumption of resources (including power) has increased multiple times, colonization of space may become inevitable,” they write.