A team of astronomers believes that strange signals emanating from a cluster of stars are actually aliens trying to tell the universe they exist.
The study, which appeared in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, analyzed the odd beams of light from 234 stars — a fraction of the 2.5 million that were observed.
The bizarre beacons led the paper’s authors, Ermanno F. Borra and Eric Trottier from Laval University in Quebec, to conclude that it’s “probably” aliens.
“We find that the detected signals have exactly the shape of an [extraterrestrial intelligence] signal predicted in the previous publication and are therefore in agreement with this hypothesis,” wrote Borra and Trottier.
They also note that their findings align with the Extraterrestrial Intelligence (ETI) hypothesis, since the mysterious activity only occurred in a tiny fraction of stars. The hypothesis also suggests that an intelligent life force would use a more sophisticated optical beacon than, say, radio waves to reveal its existence.
Researchers sifted through data collected by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey — an eight-foot diameter telescope in Sunspot, New Mexico — to separate natural signals from ones that appeared generated.
But there are more skeptics than not, including the authors themselves, who acknowledge the hypothesis still needs work. For starters, the data needs to be verified by at least two other telescopes and all natural causes need to be ruled out.
“Although unlikely,” the study notes “there is also a possibility that the signals are due to highly peculiar chemical compositions in a small fraction of galactic halo stars.”
Breakthrough Listen—a $100 million global effort to hunt for alien life, backed by Stephen Hawking and Mark Zuckerberg—said the signals are worth additional research, but not to get too excited.
“It is too early to unequivocally attribute these purported signals to the activities of extraterrestrial civilizations,” the organization said in a statement. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”