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Curated by RSF Research Staff

We May Be Looking for Alien Megastructures in the Wrong Places

During the 1960s, Freeman Dyson and Nikolai Kardashev captured the imaginations of people everywhere by making some radical proposals. Whereas Dyson proposed that intelligent species could eventually create megastructures to harness the energy of their stars, Kardashev offered a three-tiered classification system for intelligent species based on their ability to harness the energy of their planet, solar system, and galaxy, respectively.

With missions that are now capable of locating extra-solar planets (i.e. the Kepler Space Observatory) scientists have been on the lookout for signs of possible alien megastructures. Unfortunately, aside from some very arguable results, no concrete evidence has yet come to light. Lucky for us, in a study from the Free University of Tbilisi, Professor Zaza Osmanov offers some new insight on why megastructures may have eluded us so far.

While fascinating, the idea of alien megastructures invariably suffers from the same problem as all other attempts to find signs of intelligent life in our Universe. Basically, if intelligent life exists, why have we consistently failed to find any evidence of it? This conundrum, which was summed up by Enrico Fermi in the 1950s (thereafter known as the Fermi Paradox), has hung like a shadow over all our efforts.

For example, in the summer of 2015, a team of astronomers announced that they found what might be an indication of an alien megastructure around Tabby’s Star(KIC 8462852). However, they were quick to point out that any number of possibilities could explain the strange dimming pattern coming from the star, and subsequent studies offered even more plausible explanations — such as the star having consumed a planet at some point in its past.

To this, Osmanov has argued that the problem is that we are looking in the wrong places. Last year, he wrote a research paper in which he ventured that an alien super civilization — i.e. one that was consistent with a Level II Kardashev civilization — would likely use ring-like megastructures to harness the power of their stars. This is in contrast to the traditional concept of a “Dyson’s Sphere,” which would consist of a spherical shell.

Furthermore, he argued that these Dyson Rings would likely be built around pulsars rather than stars, and offered estimates on their dimensions which were dependent on the rotational speed of the pulsar. According to Osmanov’s latest study, titled “Are the Dyson rings around pulsars detectable?“, Osmanov extends the problem of spotting alien megastructures to the observational realm.

Specifically, he addressed how alien megastructures could be spotted by identifying their infrared energy signatures, and at what kinds of distances. By examining how such structures would vary in terms of the amount of IR radiation they would emit, he believes that they could be spotted within our local Universe using existing instruments.

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References: Universe Today, ARXiV:

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