A strong radio signal detected from a star 94 lightyears away has caught the attention of several international astronomers. The signal and its star, HD 164595, are raising familiar questions of a complex extraterrestrial civilization – including the proposal of another alien megastructure harnessing billions of watts of energy from the star.
A Russian telescope picked up on the curious signal, which is now being considered “a strong candidate for SETI” by hopeful scientists. The strength of the signal, if truly artificial, leads Italian astronomer Claudio Maccone to believe it could be sent by a Type II civilization on the Kardashev scale. He told CNN, “The Kardashev scale is based basically on the energy that that civilization might be able to funnel for its own use.” Considering we are Type I on the scale – harnessing energy from resources found on our own planet – this scenario would mean the far-away civilization is collecting energy from its nearby sun. This would be possible using a Dyson swarm, or a superstructure of advanced solar panels which envelopes a star and captures its radiation.
If all this sounds familiar, it should: last year’s alien megastructure hoopla left those on a search for extraterrestrial life disappointed. This was largely due to the signal not repeating itself, which would have hinted at an intelligent pattern. The SETI Institute is studying HD 164595 with its Allen Telescope Array in hopes of being able to replicate what the Russians observed. Senior astronomer with SETI, Seth Shostak, said, “we have not yet covered the full range of frequencies in which the signal could be located,” so time may tell if further observation is warranted.
The idea of witnessing the activity of an alien race is beyond intriguing. Astronomers are hopeful that, over time, a specific origin of the signal will be proved – whether it is aliens or not – because there is nothing more frustrating than an unsolved mystery. The questions surrounding the signal continue to mount, including from Shostak, who said, “This star system is so far away they won’t have yet picked up on any TV or radar that would tell them that we’re here.” So, why are we receiving a signal? We will just have to keep our eyes on the skies and wait.