Researchers Weigh Using Lasers To Contact Intelligent Life
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology think laser technology could help intelligent life make contact with Earth. The researchers surmise that creating a 1- to 2-megawatt laser focused through a telescope could produce a light strong enough to be distinguishable from the energy produced by the sun. The researchers published their study in The Astrophysical Journal.
James Clark, author of the study, is a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He says that target of the energy beam would be areas like Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth. The project would be challenging, but not impossible, according to Clark.
Earth has been sending signals, such as radio waves, into space for over a century. The problem is that the length of time needed for those signals to get to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Using light would allow messages to travel farther much faster. Lasers of the correct magnitude have already been created, but there is no telescope currently large enough to create the signal.
The telescope needed would be much larger anything currently seen on Earth at 115 to 148 feet long. The only thing that comes close would be the Extremely Large Telescope currently under construction by the European Space Organization. That telescope is projected to be 128 feet long.
However, operating a laser with the power of the sun has many hazards associated with it. Anyone looking at the beam could suffer massive corneal damage. There are also considerable risks to wildlife flying in the area.
Clark has a solution that he believes would eliminate these risks. He recommends putting the laser on the Moon. Clark said, “If you wanted to build this thing on the far side of the moon where no one’s living or orbiting much, then that could be a safer place for it.”