Are aliens camping out in the Milky Way?

3 mins
08 Jun 2022
Are aliens camping out in the Milky Way?

Experts claim aliens could be circling dwarf stars for energy, while others suggest four ‘hostile’ civilisations are pretty close to us

image Jeremy Thomas

words Eve Walker

A new study suggests that aliens could be camping out in the Milky Way. Expert Ben Zuckerman, who teaches physics and astronomy at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), co-wrote it. According to Zuckerman, the search for alien activity should focus on exploring Dyson spheres circling white dwarf stars throughout the Milky Way.

‘Dyson spheres’ – not to be mistaken for the TikTok famous hair styling tool – are the hypothetical constructions that entirely encompass a star. Named after the famous physicist Freeman Dyson who came up with the concept, the spheres capture a large percentage of a star’s solar power output.

Civilisations need energy to survive. While humans have relied on fossil fuels for centuries, the largest generator of energy in the solar system is the sun. If an advanced civilization wants to make the most of the energetic output of their home star, they have to build structures to capture it and block out at least some of the star's light to convert it into useful energy. Zuckerman believes that aliens would not take the trouble of travelling to a new star just to build a Dyson sphere. Instead, he believes these spheres would be built around a civilisation’s home star. According to him, by searching for Dyson spheres, astronomers may be able to estimate the number of advanced civilizations there are in the galaxy.

“Some astronomers, including me, think that technological life may be a very rare occurrence,” Zuckerman said.

“Indeed, we might even possess the most advanced technology in our Milky Way galaxy. But no one knows, so it is worth searching for evidence.”

There have been various reports recently flirting with the idea of alien existence; from the suggestion of alien life on planets with two suns, to NASA releasing a photo with what looks like an alien doorway on Mars, to experiments to communicate with any potential extraterrestrial life out there (including a wild attempt to send nudes to aliens).

Meanwhile, new research that has been published on arXiv that acts as a thought experiment to ask the pressing question: What are the odds that humans could one day contact a hostile alien civilization that's capable of invading earth?

Doctoral student in conflict resolution from Spain’s University of Vigo, Alberto Caballero, estimates that there could be around four “malicious extraterrestrial civilisations” in the Milky Way. He admits though that the paper has “some limitations”, and it is also yet to be peer reviewed. Caballero previously published a study in Cambridge University’s peer-reviewed International Journal of Astrobiology this year, exploring where the mysterious WOW! Signal – which has confounded scientists for 40 years – first originated.

As Stephen Hawking once said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.” Be warned, sit tight.

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