The great mystery that beguiles the scientific world and those of us who are interested in astronomy is whether an extra-terrestrial life exists somewhere else. The enormity of the universe and its diversities make the task impossible unless of course a more advanced technical civilization happens to exist and will one day discover our planet and gain access to it in some form or another.
In the meantime, hold on to your lightsabres and brace yourself for hyperspace. A team from Harvard University suspects mysterious energy flashes detected in galaxies far, far away may be caused by a species of super advanced aliens firing up their interstellar space craft. It is a scientific development which if true would make Star Wars more akin to an historical documentary than a nonsensical bit of sci-fi moviemaking.
The scientists at the respected Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics have come up with what they believe is a possible explanation for the existence of fast radio bursts – or FRBs – that were discovered a decade ago. FRBs are intense radio pulses that last no more than a millisecond and emanate from remote galaxies billions of light years away. They were first detected in 2007 by the world’s largest radio telescopes, but ten years on, astrophysicists remain no clearer about what produced them. Enter the team from Harvard with a theory to make Darth Vader splutter in his mask or as Yoda might say: ‘Aliens there are maybe.’
Professor Avi Loeb and his colleague, Dr Manasvi Lingam, have published a study offering up one possible theory. They say the FRBs could be evidence of aliens hard at work and that the bursts may be leaked energy from unimaginably powerful transmitters capable of sending giant LightSail ships on voyages between stars. Professor Loeb said: ‘Far radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origins at great distances, and we haven’t identified a possible natural cause with any confidence. An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking.’
In their study, accepted for publication in the astrophysical journal Letters, Professor Loeb and Dr Lingam looked at the feasibility of building a radio transmitter powerful enough to be detectable across such immense distances. They said that a solar power system would generate the required amount of energy if it chooses an area twice the size of earth to capture the sun’s rays.
The Harvard team speculates that the purpose of such a giant solar energy plant is to drive interstellar LightSails. A LightSail uses a tiny amount of pressure exerted by light to produce acceleration that allows a spacecraft to achieve great speeds. Energy levels responsible for FRBs would be enough to push a payload of a million tonnes – 20 times the mass of the largest cruise ships on earth.
‘That’s big enough to carry living passengers across interstellar or even inter-galactic distances,’ said Dr Lingam. Professor Loeb has admitted the work is speculative and Dr Simon Foster, star of the TV science show Duck Quacks Don’t Echo, said he was sceptical aliens were the cause of FRBs. ‘We just don’t know what these things are,’ he said. ‘It would be lovely if it were aliens.’
So says I. Such discoveries would change our world and our perception of the universe and what lies within it. If however, we are allowed a second life we might be witness to events and new discoveries that will stun the mind and lead us to become super humans.
If the scientists can speculate I see no reason why we can’t do the same.