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Scientists Prepare To Contact Our Closest Stellar Neighbor

First impressions can be everything and scientists are currently working out what message they will be sending to our closest Earth-like exoplanet in 2018.

Artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri

Also Check: Exoplanets – Everything You Need To Know

Proxima b is an Earth-like exoplanet around 4 light-years from Earth. Scientists discovered and confirmed the existence of the planet in August this year and they are extremely excited about the potential it might have. We understand from the way life has evolved on our own planet, and the fact that it hasn’t anywhere else we’ve looked, is that in order for life to exist, the temperature needs to be in the correct range for liquid water to be able to form. Liquid water is considered the main ingredient in the recipe for life.

The scientists studying Proxima b strongly believe that the planet lies at the correct distance from its star in order for liquid water to be able to form, and therefore it could harbor life of some kind. It would answer the biggest question we have ever asked; are we alone?

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Well why don’t we just go there?

Unfortunately Proxima b is a long way away. So long in fact, that the NASA Juno probe, currently the fastest manmade object, would still take 17,000 years to reach it, despite travelling at 165,000 mph. A recent study has suggested creating a probe that will be able to reach the system in 25 years which will be powered by lasers, but, this is still very much in the concept stage.

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So how can we tell if life exists?

NASA had a plan in the 1970’s to connect a network of radio telescopes across the globe and create a mega transmitter that could reach unimaginable distances across the galaxy but it was shelved due to funding. It was known as Project Cyclops and a group of scientists are now trying to resurrect the idea behind the operation.

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“If we want to start an exchange over the course of many generations, we want to learn and share information.” – Douglas Vakoch – Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI)

METI is a non-profit organization and uses both crowdfunding and grants to turn this idea into a fully operational project. They estimate that they will need about a million USD per year in order to keep the project running, but you can guarantee that they will get a hundred times that if they get any interesting results or signals. They plan to start transmitting signals towards Proxima b  in 2018.

What will we say?

This is another interesting debating point. We can pretty much rule out any extraterrestrial life forms speaking English, but they should understand mathematical laws and the rules of physics. This is because mathematics isn’t something they can have a different version of, and neither are the laws of physics as we know them. The scientists also want to look at the Drake Equation and reassess whether it is valid. The Drake equation was written by astrophysicist Frank Drake and it attempts to calculate how many alien civilizations exist in the universe based upon the amount of stars and a number of other factors.

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What if they don’t like us?

First impressions are important, but many who’ve seen too many science-fiction horror movies are starting to wonder whether it’s such a good idea broadcasting our position. Some say we might be looking for trouble and that alien civilizations might see us as lesser lifeforms, or come looking for our resources. By and large though, the opposition is minimal and most rational people in the world would like to know if we are alone in the universe.

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“Perhaps for some civilisations… we need to take the initiative to make first contact. The role of scientists is to test hypotheses. Through METI we can empirically test the hypothesis that transmitting an intentional signal will elicit a reply.” – Douglas Vakoch – Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI)

Perhaps there are other civilizations out there, and perhaps they are a little more evolved, advanced or even more discrete than us. Perhaps they only receive messages and don’t want to transmit anything themselves so it would be up to us to make the first move.

What do you think? Should we invest in hunting for extraterrestrial life?

Let me know in the comments below or on my Facebook page.

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