(ORDO NEWS) — The search for spheres, rings, or Dyson swarms continues to excite many astronomers. If they exist, they will eventually be found, and the person or research group that does so will go down in history as the author of one of the most significant discoveries in human history.
If you are interested in claiming this title for yourself, white dwarfs are a great place to look. At least that’s the theory put forward in a new paper by Benjamin Zuckerman, now deceased professor of astrophysics at the University of California.
Dyson spheres are the material for highly developed civilizations, which are usually imagined as artificial spheres surrounding an entire star.
However, if they are ever built, they will most likely look like a partially completed sphere, or even a ring or “swarm” of small habitats that surround the host star. Any of these configurations, called DSR by Dr. Zuckerman, will have one unique characteristic – they will change the star’s infrared signature.
This is what Dr. Zuckerman’s work focuses on. His theory focuses on scanning white dwarfs for anomalous infrared signatures that could indicate that they are surrounded by an artificial structure. But why exactly white dwarfs? In addition to being fairly ubiquitous, they are different in that they are the end state of stars like ours.
The life cycle of a solar mass object goes through the main sequence we’re in right now, then inflates into a red giant, potentially engulfing the many planets the system has accumulated during that time.
It will then collapse into a white dwarf, where it will exist for billions of years before potentially degenerating into a low-powered black dwarf.
While white dwarfs are still alive, they emit thermal radiation up to several thousand degrees Kelvin, which could potentially be absorbed and reused to power the DSR.
However, as Dr. Zuckerman points out, this star must develop a technological civilization before such an object is built around it, as any civilization capable of creating a DSR is probably not interested in building such an object around any particular white dwarf other than the one in whose orbit they grew up.
Zuckerman’s previous work points to the possibility that if there are indeed technologically advanced civilizations in the Milky Way, then at least some of them have experienced the transformation of their host star into a white dwarf.
If their reaction to this potentially cataclysmic event is to build a DSR around their now more stable star, then we should be able to see them with our new infrared telescopes.
In fact, observations have already been made on WISE and Spitzer. They both observed white dwarfs with a mass about the same as we would expect from our own Sun.
They even noticed some instances of anomalous infrared signatures. However, according to the researchers, the most likely cause of these anomalies was dust, and there was no evidence for the existence of DSR.
There has never been any evidence of DSR in astronomical data, much to the chagrin of alien hunters. But lack of evidence is not proof of absence – it just helps limit the likelihood.
According to Dr. Zuckerman, given the observations already made, we can make a statistical calculation that less than 3% of habitable planets orbiting stars that eventually turn into white dwarfs create a DSR around them.
Of course, current estimates put the number of habitable planets around G-type stars that could eventually become white dwarfs at 300 million – so there could still be up to 9 million civilizations that built a DSR around their home star. – white dwarf.
But for now, the Fermi paradox remains in place, and science continues to collect data that will either further limit estimates of the number of advanced technological civilizations in our galaxy, or prove that we are not alone once and for all.
In any case, more advanced infrared telescopes such as the JWST, which is being phased in, are one of our best chances of finding them. And there will always be people who want to keep looking.
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