Scientists at Pennsylvania State University have created technology that can use a star’s ability to focus and amplify messages passing through the solar system. The results of this work have been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.
The study describes the Sun as a kind of node in an interstellar communication network, including probes or relays near our Sun, acting as cellphone towers in space.
Communication at interstellar distances can use the star’s ability to focus and amplify communication signals through an effect called gravitational lensing.
The signal coming from or passing through the relay probe bends under the effect of gravity as it passes in front of the star. The curved space around an object acts like a telescope lens, focusing and amplifying light. A new study by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania scoured the solar system for communication signals the sun could use.
The study discusses an effect called “gravitational lensing”, which is part of Einstein’s general theory of relativity and involves the bending of light as it passes in front of massive objects such as stars and black holes. .
The space around the object distorts, which concentrates and amplifies the light, much like the lens of a telescope. Scientists suggest using the same method to transmit messages across vast distances in space.
“Astronomers have considered using the gravitational lens as a way to build a giant telescope to observe planets around other stars,” said Jason Wright, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at State University. of Pennsylvania.
“We also saw it as a way for humans to communicate with our probes if we ever sent them to another star. If a technological alien species is using our sun as a lens for its interstellar communication efforts, we might be able to detect these messages if we look in the right place. »
The scientists used the gravitational focus of our Sun, which is located at about 550 AU. (astronomical units) of us, one AU being equal to the distance between the Sun and the Earth, and 550 AU being between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn.
For the gravitational lensing effect, the gravitational focus is where light bending phenomena occur, and this study estimates that this is where the closest extraterrestrial probe to our solar system will be to use our Sun as a lens.
Unfortunately, the researchers did not detect any signals of extraterrestrial origin at the wavelengths they observed, but the study was conducted for only one night.
However, understanding how we can communicate with extraterrestrial civilizations beyond Earth has undoubtedly proven invaluable to the professors and students involved in the project.