A couple of weeks ago, we reported on a mysterious radio signal (BLC-1) that had been detected by researchers at Breakthrough Listen. Originating from Proxima Centauri, the signal was quickly classified as a possible “alien transmission.” Now astronomers are figuring out how they could verify or disprove that possibility.
While it remains unlikely that the BLC-1 signal was a transmission from an alien civilization, the possibility can’t be ignored. The first aspect of the signal that may tell us it was aliens was that it drifted in frequency, the way a signal would if it came from a moving planet. This lines up with the fact that Proxima Centauri is believed to be orbited by at least a single planet.
The signal also lasted for several hours and disappeared when the Parkes telescope pointed in a different direction in the sky. Just these couple of facts alone are enough for astronomers at SETI to raise an eyebrow.
Discerning where exactly the signal originated or if it has some meaning behind it isn’t easy considering that it hasn’t been repeated. This, paired with the slew of other, more down to earth explanations, has allowed skeptics to relatively easily dismiss the idea of aliens being behind the signal.
The guys over at ScienceX point out that the first step towards identifying a radio signal is determining a precise origination location. This means ditching the way that SETI currently hunts for odd radio signals using large, singular dishes. Instead, SETI should utilize many large dishes that are separated by hundreds or thousands of miles that can all focus in on the signal and quickly triangulate its location.
Having an extensive array of satellites separated by large distances would also eliminate the frustrating issue that is detecting radio interference from Earth. Eliminating the false positives that are continually being detected would mean that each odd signal detected would have the genuine possibility of originating from an extraterrestrial civilization.
Unfortunately, creating such an array of satellites would require a long period of time and large sums of funding. While it may not be happening in the near future, the possibility of such an array is tantalizing for alien hunters and could certainly occur within our lifetimes.