(ORDO NEWS) — The question of whether there is intelligent alien life out there in the wider Milky Way galaxy can be answered by gravitational waves.
According to a new paper written by an international group of scientists and engineers called Applied Physics, ground-based detectors such as the Laser Interferometric Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) should theoretically be able to detect gravitational waves generated by extraterrestrial mega-technologies.
This, the researchers say, will expand the search for extraterrestrial intelligence beyond Earth‘s immediate neighbors and all the stars in the galaxy.
Whether the Earth is the only one in the universe where there is intelligent life (or life at all) is one of the biggest open questions that concern mankind.
But our ability to find recognizable technologies is limited to just a few tens of thousands of stars.
The types of electromagnetic waves we use to communicate weaken or decay as they travel, making it nearly impossible to filter out noise beyond a couple of hundred light-years.
But the gravitational wave signals are different. They are not attenuated in the same way as electromagnetic signals and can be detected over long distances.
So if there was an intelligent alien civilization out there with technology that could generate powerful gravitational waves, well, maybe we could detect it.
Gravitational waves are practically the only tool we have for space exploration that doesn’t rely on light.
They are generated by mass events; here on Earth, the gravitational waves we have detected are the result of collisions between massive compact objects, black holes and neutron stars.
When these stellar corpses merge, the inhalation and collision causes ripples in the very fabric of space-time – a bit like a stone thrown into a pond generates tiny waves, only in all directions and at the speed of light.
In fact, any object with mass that accelerates creates gravitational waves. But gravitational waves generated by something as powerful as a large rocket would still be too small for our current detection capabilities.
So if an alien civilization actually had technology capable of producing gravitational waves that we could detect, it would have to be damn impressive.
Led by UCLA physicist Luke Sellers, the researchers set out to calculate the size and speed of the alien spacecraft that could be detected using LIGO what they called Rapid and/or Massively Accelerated Spacecraft (RAMAcraft).
They determined that LIGO is capable of detecting RAMAcraft around the mass of Jupiter (that’s 317.8 Earth masses, so we can rule out creating one anytime soon), with a warp drive capable of accelerating to 10% the speed of light.
If such a spacecraft were operating at a distance of about 100 kiloparsecs, or 326,000 light-years, from Earth, we could detect it.
Since the Milky Way’s disk is up to about 260,000 light years in diameter, this would comfortably cover the stars of our home galaxy.
“Our study of warp drives paved the way for the detection of gravitational waves,” says physicist Gianni Martire, CEO of Applied Physics.
This new method is not limited to the traditional range of electromagnetic signals; thus, we already have the ability to scan all 10 11 stars in the Milky Way for warp drives, and soon thousands of other galaxies.”
Proposed gravitational wave detectors for future developments, such as the DECi-hertz Interferometer Gravitation Wave Observatory and the Big Bang Observer, should be 100 times more sensitive than LIGO and therefore could expand the search volume by 10 6 , the researchers say.
These are all pretty serious “ifs”. But now that the groundwork has been laid, the team hopes to generalize their methods to find smaller targets closer to home. These searches will turn gravitational waves into RAMAcraft Detection And Ranging (RAMADAR) devices.
“Detecting gravitational waves is a complex science, although it is still in its infancy,” the researchers write in their paper.
“As the technique develops, the sensitivity of the detectors may become such that the detection of these objects will become a regular occurrence. In this spirit, it would be interesting to complete a full-fledged search for these objects… We invite the scientific community to join us.”
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