Wednesday, 27 Sep 2023

Astronomers make scientific prediction about finding alien life

Astronomers hope the reply from a message beamed into space 40 years ago could be detected tomorrow – proving the existence of extraterrestrial life.

On August 15, 1983, professors Masaki Morimoto and Hisashi Hirabayashi used an antenna at Stanford University in the US to send a burst of radio signals into the cosmos. The message consisted of 13 drawings depicting the history of life on Earth, our solar system and the structure of DNA.

Today’s team, led by Shinya Narusawa at the University of Hyogo, Japan, predicts that around now is the earliest point at which a response from intelligent life could arrive – if anyone living near the star Altair heard it.

Altair, a relatively close 16.7 light-years away, is found in the Aquila constellation and is the 12th brightest star in the night sky.

‘A large number of exoplanets have been detected since the 1990s,’ said Mr Narusawa, speaking to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. ‘Altair may have a planet whose environment can sustain life.’

At 10pm tomorrow night, the team will use the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) antenna in Saku, central Japan, to scan the skies for a reply, listening in for an hour. 

The August 22 date is a symbolic one. Japan celebrates Tanabata, also known as the ‘star festival’ on the seventh day of the seventh month – July 7. However, on the lunar calendar Tanabata falls tomorrow, prompting the team to choose this date.

The original ‘is anybody out there’ message was beamed as part of anniversary celebrations commemorating 15 years of the weekly comic anthology Shonen Jump.

Professor Morimoto, described as ‘an inspiration for the younger generations entering the newly born radio astronomy community in Japan’ died in 2010. Dr Hirabayashi, who has written books on intelligent extraterrestrial life, is now a professor emeritus at JAXA.

Whether he will hear a response to his message tomorrow remains to be seen, but as no exoplanets have been found orbiting Altair, any response will be even more of a surprise.

However, Nasa has observed that the star spins so fast its mid-section is stretched out, like ‘a beach ball that is squeezed at the top and bottom’.

The existence of extraterrestrial life has rarely been out of the headlines in recent weeks following the explosive congressional hearing on unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAPs) and Harvard professor Avi Loeb’s research into mysterious meteorites found at the bottom of the ocean.

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But while some search for proof of aliens on our own world, teams across the globe are also looking to the stars for the tiniest signs of life out there.

It could even be found in our own solar system. Two missions, the ESA’s Juice and Nasa’s Europa Clipper are both heading to Jupiter’s icy moons to search for traces of life. They will arrive in 2030.

Further out, Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus was recently found to contain all the elements essential to life in its subsurface oceans.

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