Aliens may use supernova as opportunity to send Earth a message, study suggests

Astronomers mark out elliptical region around rececntly found supernova to which aliens might send singals

Vishwam Sankaran
Thursday 22 June 2023 09:09 BST
Related video: Betelgeuse Supernova Will Be Clearly Visible From Earth

Scientists are observing a nearby star at the end of its life under the suspicion that its stellar explosion might lead us to get messages from advanced alien beings.

The type II supernova SN 2023ixf, marking the end of the massive star’s life, is the nearest such explosion from Earth found in over a decade.

The exploding star was discovered just last month by Japanese astronomer Koichi Itagaki.

It was found along one of the spiral arms of the Pinwheel Galaxy about 21 million light years away from Earth.

Observatories across the world are already studying the supernova to find out how its spectrum evolves over time to help astronomers better understand the physics of such explosions.

In a new, yet-to-be peer-reviewed study, scientists propose that advanced aliens – if they exist – might also use the exploding star to opportunistically send a message to other civilisations.

Researchers have previously theorised the basis of using historic cosmic events like supernovae in the search for signals from extraterrestrial agents.

This is based on the idea that historic events like the explosion of a giant star would spark the attention of humans.

And an alien civilisation seeking to contact Earth might send coordinated signals in the supernova’s direction in the hopes that humans pick up their signals as well.

Astronomers, including those from the University of Washington in the US, suspect the recently discovered supernova 2023ixf – the nearest Type II supernova in over a decade – could serve as an important benchmark event in this respect.

They have now marked out an elliptical region of space called a SETI ellipsoid around the supernova.

This region would offer aliens living on potentially habitable planets a clear view of both the supernova as well as Earth.

Researchers have identified about 100 stars in this region that are visible from Earth that might potentially relay messages as we witness the star go out in a bang.

“We find that more than 100 stars within 100pc are already close to intersecting this SETI Ellipsoid, providing numerous targets for real-time monitoring within ∼3° of SN2023ixf,” scientists wrote in the study.

Scientists are initiating a campaign to observe signals of these target stars using the Allen Telescope Array in San Francisco and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia in the hopes of picking up potential alien communication.

Such stellar explosions happen only in stars at least over eight times the mass of the Sun and can shine for months, offering a large time window for an alien civilisation keen on communicating with Earth.

“We intend to revisit the Ellipsoid once a month for the next few months as new stars enter the sample, and are open to synchronizing our observations,” scientists wrote in the study.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in