Scientists at MIT want to use existing lasers to create a signal that aliens, who are also looking for life in the universe, will find.
According to scientists, the beacons will be able to attract the attention of intelligent extraterrestrial life from as far as 20,000 light-years away from Earth. The team claims that a message sent through this process could reach a distant planet from neighboring star systems in a couple of years.
Searching For Alien Life
In a new study that appeared in The Astrophysical Journal, author James Clark proposed the use of high-powered 1 to 2-megawatt lasers, the lights of which are focused through a 30 to a 45-meter telescope.
This would create a beacon that can be distinguished from the light of the sun and can be detected by alien astronomers from a neighboring star system that might also be looking for signs of life in the universe.
Clark added that the lasers can also be used to send messages to other planets in the form of pulses. It would reach a neighboring star system like the Proxima Centauri — the nearest star to Earth — in just a few years.
"This would be a challenging project but not an impossible one," he stated. "The kinds of lasers and telescopes that are being built today can produce a detectable signal, so that an astronomer could take one look at our star and immediately see something unusual about its spectrum."
Megawatt Laser Beam: Good Or Bad Idea?
However, there is a serious downside to using a megawatt laser beam to find intelligent alien civilizations in the universe. While Earth currently has the technology to create the beacon, the beam would produce 800 watts of power per square meter that would damage a person's vision. The beacon could also damage any cameras onboard any spacecraft that happens to pass in its path.
Moreover, Clark is not sure if Earth will be equipped to see beacons that another civilization from across the universe will send back through a similar process. While a telescope from Earth can spot the beacon, scientists should first know where to look.
"It is vanishingly unlikely that a telescope survey would actually observe an extraterrestrial laser unless we restrict our survey to the very nearest stars," he added.
The researchers hope that the study will pave the way to the creation of infrared imaging techniques that could spot laser beacons in space.