Could ETs use neutron star mergers to communicate? | 8/29/2018 | Paul Scott Anderson
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Artist’s concept of a binary or double star system, where the 2 stars are merging. Could an alien civilization use neutron star mergers to communicate across space? Image via NSF/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet.

When it comes to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) most people think first of searches using radio telescopes to look for signals from distant alien civilizations. Other possibilities – such as optical SETI, which searches for extraterrestrial laser pulses – have become more popular in recent years as well. After all, as many people argue, why would an advanced civilization limit itself to using just radio? Now researchers in Japan offer a different and intriguing approach to SETI. What about looking for signals that have been synchronized with two merging neutron stars?

Scientists - Idea - Publication - Journal - Work

Other scientists are taking this idea seriously enough to enable its publication in a major journal. The work passed peer-review and was published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters – aka ApJ Letters – on August 1, 2018.

The overriding problem with SETI is that there is simply so much space, literally, to search. What are the best places to look? And when should we be looking?

Idea - Star - Mergers - Premise - ETs

The idea of communicating via binary (double) star mergers sounds far-out, but the premise is pretty simple. The ETs could deliberately time a communication so that it coincides with a very noticeable and natural, but transient, cosmic event – like a supernova or gamma-ray burst – thinking that telescopes of other (semi-advanced) civilizations, such as ours on Earth, might be pointed toward such an event. Writing in ApJ Letters, the authors said:

We discuss the possibility of receiving a radio signal from extra-galactic intelligence, around the time when we observe a binary neutron star merger in their galaxy. High-precession measurements of the binary parameters would allow them to send the signal ~104 years...
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