The Search Begins For An Alien Megastructure

The Allen Telescope Array is focussing in on a fascinating discovery

Last week, astronomers discovered that KIC 8462852, a star located 1,480 light-years away from Earth, is producing a series of bizarre light fluctuations that researchers cannot explain.

The most obvious explanation is a huge dust cloud, which can intermittently block a star’s light, but this has been ruled unlikely as such dust would give off an infrared light, and no such light has been detected.

Another theory is that a construction of an alien civilisation, is obscuring light from the star.

Hoping to find the answer, researchers are focusing the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), a group of 42 radio telescopes in California, on the curious star. The ATA will listen out for radio signals emanating from the area.

This isn’t the first time we’ve gone looking for mysterious radio signals.

The infamous “wow signal” was an intriguing radio signal detected on 15 August 1977 that some believe was a call from aliens.

The 72-second transmission was picked up at the Big Ear radio observatory in Ohio, coming from the direction of the Sagittarius constellation. (Watch Video here)

When astronomer Jerry Ehman detected the signal, he circled it on the computer printout along with the word “wow!”

Despite continued efforts, no further signals have ever been found, and the source of the original signal has not been determined.

Image: The Ohio State University Radio Observatory and the North American AstroPhysical Observatory

While the idea of a structure built by an alien civilisation is exciting, Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI), warns that people “should perhaps moderate their enthusiasm with the lessons of history.”

In other news that dampens the alien theory, a new study suggests Earth is one of the first habitable human planets to form, so we’re probably around too early to encounter alien civilisations. Meaning we may be as advanced as life has had time to become in the whole universe.

Using data from the Kepler and Hubble space telescopes, researchers predict that 92 percent of the universe’s habitable planets have yet to be born.

"Our main motivation was understanding the Earth's place in the context of the rest of the universe," said lead researcher Peter Behroozi. "Compared to all the planets that will ever form in the Universe, the Earth is actually quite early."

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