Milky Way Signals From Galactic Center Are Aliens Saying Hello?

Scientists are looking somewhere new for potential alien signals: our galaxy's center.

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

black holes

What if the truth was out there, but we had simply been looking in the wrong places? That’s the general idea behind an ambitious new plan to study the narrow-frequency pulses coming from the center of our Milky Way galaxy. The study, as described by a paper published in The Astronomical Journal, aims to examine Milky Way signals to discover the potential existence of alien life among the stars.

The Milky Way signals in question are ones that we have known about for some time. That’s because these are the kinds of signals that are naturally emitted by pulsars. Relatively speaking, these signals are easier to detect because they easily stand out against the often-crowded background radio noise of the cosmos.

But the interesting thing about these Milky Way signals (and what the study is trying to conclusively prove) is that because these signals are relatively easy to detect, they might be getting sent by intelligent alien life deliberately rather than sent by pulsars randomly. By studying as many of the pulses as possible, this research team is hoping to learn more about whether such signals could prove the existence of alien life.

Strictly speaking, these signals appear throughout space, so why are the researchers focusing on Milky Way signals in particular? The short answer is that the center of the Milky Way is chock full of not only stars but the kinds of exoplanets that might be home to alien life. If even one of these planets is filled with intelligent aliens, and if those aliens want to reach out to the rest of the galaxy, then these signals would be a natural way of doing so.

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How, though, do the researchers hope to sift through the Milky Way signals and find evidence of alien communication rather than, say, the typical noise from pulsars? It all comes down to the nature of the signals: the research team is hoping to discover signals that use narrow bandwidths and signals that repeat. While not completely impossible, it is highly rare for this kind of combination to occur naturally, so finding evidence of its existence might be our first step to finding evidence of alien life.

When it comes to searching these Milky Way signals for signs of alien life, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that, so far, early searches have not yielded the results the team wants, meaning that the telltale proof of aliens remains elusive. The good news is that the team has technology on their side: the researchers have an “algorithm that can search through 1.5 million telescope data samples in 30 minutes,” so it doesn’t take long to conduct additional searches even in the face of failure.

This may seem like a slow start, especially for those who hoped that such research would be the first step in regularly discovering new aliens as we see on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. However, studying these Milky Way signals may be our best bet in finding not only where the aliens have been hiding but what they have to say. With any luck, it won’t take this team very long to make the kind of discovery that will change our entire understanding of the cosmos.