There is a chance that the search for real life aliens may be reaching its final phase. Between the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra, astronomers have found an array of objects orbiting a star that they say could possibly be enormous alien artefacts. Or comets. But strangely, the idea of real life aliens isn’t just some distant possibility voiced in an effort to grab attention – the highly reputable scientists involved are giving the aliens theory very serious consideration.
For four long years, the Kepler Space Telescope stared at over 150,000 stars, recording the minuscule interruptions in light that are caused by everything from orbiting planets and moons to passing comets. This process generated so much data that it was impossible to analyse it automatically using algorithms, so the Kepler Space Telescope astronomers decided to crowdsource the analysis. They created an organization called Planet Hunters and invited citizen astronomers to help out by looking for patterns in the light source interruptions recorded by the Kepler Space Telescope. Why patterns? Well, if a pattern emerges in the light source interruptions, it can safely be assumed that there is an object passing between the star and the Kepler Space Telescope at regular intervals. And what this means is that the object is very likely to be in orbit. Like a planet.
The focus of the research has been to find Earth-like planets rather than anything to do with aliens. Real life astronomers (as opposed to the kind that grace conspiracy websites) are mostly open to the idea of extra-terrestrial life, but are known for being deeply skeptical about the evidence for the existence of real life aliens so far. This case would appear to be an exception. When a number of these citizen astronomers flagged this particular star as unusual, the Kepler Space Telescope team decided to take a closer look. When they did, they found a pattern which they had never seen before, indicating that whatever might be orbiting this star could not possibly be any of the usual suspects.
Being real scientists, they combed through the data looking for errors. They checked to see if the patterns could have been formed by instrument failure, movement of the space craft, debris from the collisions of astronomical bodies, planet formation debris, and a host of other possibilities. When Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, was talking the the Atlantic about it all, he said that real life aliens was definitely not a conclusion that was immediately leaped to.
The thing is, though, that after all their tests and analysis, only two scenarios fit the data pattern that the Kepler Space Telescope has recorded. One is that another star passed near the star in question and dragged an armada of comets into its orbit. This would be a very rare and (no pun) astronomically coincidental event, however, and the other possibility is, in some ways, just as unlikely. It’s aliens. Real life aliens. Wrights comments about the possibilities are as amazing as they are unlikely.
Both Wright and Yale post doctorate Tabetha Boyajian think that there is a real possibility that what they are looking at is alien megastructures orbiting the star. They further posit that they might be some kind of energy collection array, in line with SETI’s contention that one of the ways that we might find real life aliens would be by their artefacts, rather like our own constellations of man-made satellites.
Because none of these scientists belong to the tin-foil hat brigade, we are going to have to wait some time for anything further – various other space observing arrays are now being tasked to monitor the star for radio waves and, if these results are positive, the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico will take a closer look. We absolutely cannot wait.