After astronomers found strange light patterns from the surroundings of the KIC 8462852 star through the data collected by NASA's Kepler space telescope, the search for intelligent alien life has begun. Kepler discovered the KIC 8462852 star to be over 1,500 light-years away from Earth.
This time, astronomers from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in California started to use massive satellite dishes to catch radio signals coming from the vicinity of the star.
Astronomers said that these satellite dishes called Allen Telescope Array (ATA) include 42 antennas that are positioned about 300 miles northeast of San Francisco. Each antenna is 6 meters in diameter, and can be simultaneously used by SETI for various astronomical studies.
SETI astronomers are also monitoring data from other unusual star systems which had been observed by Kepler during its missions. The ATA's ability to study different areas of the sky all at the same time has enabled it to examine star systems more quickly compared to former SETI experiments. As it is being continually upgraded with spectral analyzers and receivers, the ATA may be able to study a reconnaissance of 100,000 or even 1 million stars in the near future.
"It almost doesn't matter where you point your telescope, because there are planets everywhere," explained Seth Shostak, SETI senior astronomer. "If there's somebody out there, there are going to be so many of them out there that I do think there's a chance."
Astronomers noticed that the KIC 8462852 has dimmed strangely and irregularly several times over the past four years. Dr. Tabetha Boyajian, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Yale, published a study regarding the matter. Boyajian and her colleagues said that the irregular light patterns might have not been influenced by light from neighboring stars.
Thus, the team believes that the light signal might have been a cluster of exocomets that moved around the KIC 8462852, but others also consider the idea that it might have been a huge "alien megastructure."
"One of the things that occurred to me is that a civilization that would build one megastructure would eventually build more," said Jason Wright, an associate professor at Penn State University.
He added that if advanced alien civilizations built planet-sized megastructures such as solar panels, ring worlds, telescopes and beacons, Kepler might be able to distinguish these megastructures from planets.
The signal from the KIC 8462852 has not been the first. In 1967, astronomer Jocelyn Bell found regular signals from an area of the sky. These signals were later called LGM-1 or Little Green Men. Astronomers thought that it was a signal from an alien civilization, but it turned out to be a magnetized neutron star or a pulsar.
Meanwhile, a Russian billionaire named Yuri Milner will fund a new SETI research program with 100 million dollars. SETI director Andrew Siemion hopes that the act will inspire others to support the program.