An international team of scientists from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is investigating mysterious signal spikes emitting from a 6.3-billion-year-old star in the constellation Hercules—95 light years away from Earth. The implications are extraordinary and point to the possibility of a civilization far more advanced than our own.
The unusual signal was originally detected on May 15, 2015, by the Russian Academy of Science-operated RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, Russia, but was kept secret from the international community. Interstellar space reporter Paul Gilster broke the story after the researchers quietly circulated a paper announcing the detection of “a strong signal in the direction of HD164595.”
The mysterious star’s designation is HD164595, and it’s considered to be sun-like in nature with a nearly identical metallic composition to our own star. So far, a single Neptune-like (but warmer) planet has been discovered in its orbit—HD 164595 b. But as Gilster explained, “There could, of course, be other planets still undetected in this system.”
Decorated Italian SETI researcher and mathematician Claudio Maccone along with Russia’s Nikolai Bursov of the Special Astrophysical Observatory are the principal scientists working on the apparent discovery. They claim that “permanent monitoring of this target is needed.”
“The signal conceivably fits the profile for an intentional transmission from an extraterrestrial source,” said Alan Boyle, author of The Case for Pluto who reported the story for Geekwire. “In any case, the blip is interesting enough to merit discussion by those who specialize in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.”
The signal’s strength indicates that if it in fact came from a isotropic beacon, the power source would have to be built by a Kardashev Type II civilization. (The Kardashev scale is used to determine the progress of a civilization’s technological development by measuring how much energy was used to transmit an interstellar message.) An ‘Isotropic’ beacon means a communication source emitting a signal with equal power in all directions while promoting signal strength throughout travel.
In his acclaimed work “Transmission of Information by Extraterrestrial Civilizations,” Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev explained that a Type II civilization would be able to harness the energy of their entire host star. The most common hypothetical example of this would be a Dyson Sphere—which is a massive artificial structure that could completely encapsulate a star and transfer the energy to a nearby planet.