(ORDO NEWS) — The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) took a turn towards Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Reports (METI) when NASA announced plans to transmit digitized images of naked people and an invitation to any intelligent civilizations to respond – the images would be sent by the Five Hundred Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) to China and the Allen Telescope Array of the SETI Institute in northern California to the region of the Milky Way considered most likely to harbor life forms.
While this is happening, other researchers argue that we may already have received a message from advanced civilizations that visited our area centuries ago and left a massive sign of their existence by rearranging the planets of another star into a mathematical sequence.
“While there is still debate about whether such targeted advertising would be prudent and wise, we suggest that mean motion resonances between neighboring planets – with orbital periods forming integer ratios – could in principle be used to encode simple sequences that, as might be expected, are not formed in nature.
“The concern that SETI messages be ‘prudent and wise’ has left the building, but in a study published in the preprint journal arXiv, astrophysicists Sean Raymond, Matt Clement and others suggest that any civilization that can travel the galaxy has enough power and the lack of concern to do something dramatic – change the orbits of the planets in such a way that future civilizations recognize them as a mathematical model that cannot arise naturally Raymond and Clement were kind enough to explain their theory in simple terms in a recent magazine article Nautilus.
“It will be a cosmic landmark that will live on through the ages, long after civilization itself has disappeared. It should be detectable, easily recognizable as unnatural, and very reliable.”
The astrophysicists decided that the best type of solar system for such a massive message would be a system with “resonant chains” of planets whose orbits regularly align with those of the neighboring planet because their orbital periods form a ratio of two small integers… like 2:1 or 3 :one.
If the resonant ratio of two planets is not striking to the casual observer, then three or more is for sure, especially in a simple scheme of 1, 2, 4, 8, 16. This would be a well-distinguishable mathematical pattern – but it is not impossible.
In our solar system, Jupiter’s three innermost major moons – Io, Europa and Ganymede – form a 1, 2, 4 resonance chain, and in the exoplanet system HR 8799, four planets form a 1, 2, 4, 8 resonance chain.
Raymond and Clement put themselves instead of aliens planning to leave a bold message, and settled on four chains that seem impossible in nature – consecutive integers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), consecutive prime numbers (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11), the famous Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13) and the Lazy pharmacist sequence (from cutting the cake, where each new cut must intersect all previous ones, and the sequence is the number of pieces (1, 2, 4, 7, 11, 16).
How could advanced aliens move the planets into one of these ratios?
The authors of the study gave a theoretical example where an asteroid is sent to hit a planet, causing it to bounce off a larger planet and exchange orbital energies. They think it’s possible – we’ll have to take their word for it – but suggest that an advanced civilization would have a more elegant solution.
The next question the team asked is whether planets forced into one of these positions will stay in place for billions of years as the star they orbit rises and falls.
They found that the inner planets are likely to be engulfed by a star that grows into a red giant and then collapses into a white dwarf.
However, the outer planets, especially if they are gas giants, will stay in place in three of the four strings (not consecutive integers), leaving the planets in an unnatural, easily recognizable, long-lived configuration of the solar system. This brings us to the final question: can we, the puny earthlings, discover such a resonant chain around another star?
The answer is… yes!
Raymond and Clement say astronomers could use the current technique of observing the periodic dips in a star’s brightness as planets pass in front of it – this would help if the planets are within our line of sight.
Of course, any civilization capable of moving planets should be able to place them within our line of sight for easy detection…right?
Raymond and Clement think so – they recommend that astronomers start looking for alien signals in sequences of prime numbers.
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