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Scientists say giant lasers could attract aliens like moths to a porch light

Scientists say giant lasers could attract aliens like moths to a porch light
[Photos: NASA/Unsplash; Fabio Ballasina/Unsplash]

The search for intelligent life in the universe has apparently been lacking one thing–a killer laser light show.

A new study from MIT suggests that if we harness laser technology and flip the switch to blast a laser beam into space, we just might attract the attention of aliens. In the study, published in The Astrophysical Journal, James Clark, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, argues that focusing the beam of a 1- to 2-megawatt laser through a telescope and aiming it toward outer space could produce an interstellar Bat Signal of sorts, allowing our planet to stand out next to the light of the sun.

The laser light show could announce the presence of mostly intelligent life to extraterrestrials loitering in star systems up to 20,000 light years away, Clark says in a statement. Apparently E.T.s, like cats, just can’t control themselves around lasers and have to investigate them when they see them. “I don’t know if intelligent creatures around the sun would be their first guess,” Clark says, “but it would certainly attract further attention.” Once contact was made, Clark says the lasers could potentially be used to send Morse code-like message via light pulses.

“With current survey methods and instruments, it is unlikely that we would actually be lucky enough to image a beacon flash, assuming that extraterrestrials exist and are making them,” Clark says. “However, as the infrared spectra of exoplanets are studied for traces of gases that indicate the viability of life, and as full-sky surveys attain greater coverage and become more rapid, we can be more certain that, if E.T. is phoning, we will detect it.”

Of course, shining a giant-ass laser (technical term!) into space does have its risks. For instance, are we sure we want to attract aliens that are attracted to laser beams like moths? Haven’t we all seen Mothra? Because this is how you get Mothra.

Also, if you’re going to have a laser light show in space, how do you know if aliens prefer Zeppelin or Pink Floyd? Even Clark admits “this would be a challenging project but not an impossible one.”

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