Aliens Harvesting Stars’ Energy?

Aliens May Be Rearranging Stars to Fight Dark Energy, Awesome Study Suggests

  • Aliens May Be Rearranging Stars to Fight Dark Energy, Awesome Study Suggests

Credit: Bruce Rolff/Shutterstock

How to dominate the universe in three easy steps …

Step 1: Harvest all of your planet’s resources.

Step 2: Harvest all of your nearest star’s energy.

Step 3: Harvest all the energy from all the stars in your local galaxy; then move on to another galaxy.

Congratulations! Your species now has all the elbow room it needs to grow into a universal superpower.

That’s one Russian astronomer’s perspective, anyway. Astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev first proposed these three phases (called Level I, II and III) of galactic expansion — which he referred to as the three “types” of technologically advanced civilizations — in 1962 as a way to measure the energy consumption of increasingly powerful societies. Recently, a paper posted June 13 to the preprint journal has revived Kardashev’s model and added a new, apocalyptic twist.

According to the author of the paper, Dan Hooper — a senior scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois and a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago — harvesting energy from distant stars isn’t just the best way to increase a civilization’s available resources. It’s also the only way to prevent the ever-expanding universe from leaving that civilization totally alone in the vastness of space. (This study has yet to be peer-reviewed.)

“The presence of dark energy in our universe is causing space to expand at an accelerating rate,” Hooper wrote in the new paper. Over the next approximately 100 billion years, the stars beyond our Local Group, or a group of gravitationally bound galaxies that includes the Milky Way, will fall beyond the cosmic horizon, meaning an observer here could never retrieve information from them over the course of the age of the universe.

At that point, “the stars become not only unobservable, but entirely inaccessible, thus limiting how much energy could one day be extracted from them,” Hooper wrote in the paper.

In other words, if humans hope to meet aliens in distant galaxies, it’ll be a race against dark energy, that mysterious force thought to be uncontrollably stretching our universe farther and farther apart.

That, of course, is how we’ll find the aliens.

Any advanced civilization worth their starships would understand the grim reality of universal expansion, Hooper wrote, and they wouldn’t just sit around idly while the universe literally passed them by. Rather, they would capture stars from other galaxies, reel them in and harvest their energy first, before those stars (and their energy) became inaccessible forever.

“Given the inevitability of the encroaching horizon, any sufficiently advanced civilization that is determined to maximize its ability to utilize energy will expand throughout the universe, attempting to secure as many stars as possible before they become permanently inaccessible,” Hooper wrote.

So, how do you lasso a star in the first place? Scientists and science-fiction authors alike have pondered this question for decades, and their favored answer is this: Throw a giant net around it, of course.

This net wouldn’t be made of twine or even metal, but of satellites — a swarm of millions of solar-powered satellites known as “Dyson spheres.” Such a colossal cloud of harvesters could permanently hover around a star, beaming energy back to a nearby planet — or, as Hooper proposed in his new paper, actually use that star’s energy to accelerate the whole ball of fire back toward the planet that wanted to use it.

This may seem like a tall order for humans, who are still bumbling around Level I of Kardashev’s scale. (Carl Sagan placed us at about a 0.7 in 1973). But some scientists think there could be alien civilizations thousands, or even millions, of years older than ours who are already well into their Level III, star-harvesting phase.

And if another civilization has indeed begun rearranging the stars, it may not be long before Earthlings notice them, Hooper wrote.

“Those stars that are currently en route to the central civilization could be visible as a result of the propulsion that they are currently undergoing,” Hooper wrote. “Such acceleration would necessarily require large amounts of energy and likely produce significant fluxes of electromagnetic radiation.”

Beyond watching for those stars being dragged unceremoniously across distant galaxies, astronomers could also keep an eye out for the unusual galaxies that have had their prime stars ripped away from them, Hooper wrote.

These hypothetical, star-harvesting aliens will probably be picky, Hooper noted: Teeny-tiny stars, hundreds of times smaller than Earth’s sun, wouldn’t produce enough radiation to be useful; significantly larger stars, on the other hand, would likely be too close to going supernova to be used as a viable battery. Only stars with a mass about 20 to 100 times the mass of our sun would be viable candidates for capturing and hauling back to the home galaxy, Hooper said. And because solar objects in that mass range radiate certain wavelengths of light more than others, alien star harvesting would show up in the light signatures from these galaxies.

“The spectrum of starlight from a galaxy that has had its useful stars harvested by an advanced civilization would be dominated by massive stars and thus peak at longer wavelengths than otherwise would have been the case,” Hooper said.

Humans likely don’t have precise enough instruments yet to detect these unusual light signatures beaming from the depths of the universe, Hooper wrote. Hopefully, astronomers will develop them before our sun becomes another flaming marble in some distant civilization’s collection.

Originally published on Live Science.


The Birth of a Planet

Scientists photograph the moment a new planet is born using the most powerful telescope ever built

  • The image was taken by the VLT, which is found in the Atacama desert, Chile
  • The black circle at the centre of the image is created by a filter
  • It allows astronomers to filter out the light from the star and see only the planet
  • Known as PDS70, the planet is several times heavier than Jupiter
  • It has a surface temperature of more than 1,000°C and is 370 light years away

Scientists have used the most powerful telescope ever built for peering into the depths of the universe to witness a planet being born for the first time.

The newborn world was snapped using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile’s Atacama desert and is thought to be 370 light years from Earth.

It was the telescope’s Sphere instrument, which allows experts to measure the brightness of the planet, that initially made the discovery.

Researchers were alerted to the birth of the new world by analysing different wavelengths of light to measures the properties of its atmosphere.

The discovery is a significant step forward in space exploration and provides new insight into how planets form.

This spectacular image from the Sphere instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope is the first clear image of a planet caught in the very act of formation around the dwarf star PDS 70. The planet stands clearly out, visible as a bright point to the right of the centre of the image

This spectacular image from the Sphere instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope is the first clear image of a planet caught in the very act of formation around the dwarf star PDS 70. The planet stands clearly out, visible as a bright point to the right of the centre of the image

The discovery was led by a team at the Max Plank Institute for Astronomy as part of the European Southern Observatory project.

Dubbed PDS 70b, the new planet is seen emerging from the shadow of its young star as the solar system forms.

Previous attempts to watch planet formation have been obscured by a cloud of dust from the new world.

However, this latest image from the VLT bypassed the dust by analysing the light around the newly-formed planet.

The dark region at the centre of the image produced is due to a filter which blocks the blinding light of the star and allows astronomers to detect the planet.

The planet itself is the bright orb of light to the right of the black disk.

The coronograph is a key part of the discovery, as without it, the sheer brightness of the light produced by its host star PDS 70 would overwhelm any light coming from the planet, making it indistinguishable.


The European Southern observatory (ESO) built the most powerful telescope ever made and called it the Very Large Telescope (VLT).

The telescope is widely regarded as one of the most advanced optical instruments ever made and consists of four Telescopes.

The main mirrors measures 8.2 metres (27 feet) in diameter and there are also four movable 1.8 metre (six feet) diameter auxiliary telescopes.

The large telescopes are called Antu, Kueyen, Melipal and Yepun.

The first of the Unit Telescopes, ‘Antu’, went into routine scientific operations on 1 April 1999.

The telescopes can work together to form a giant ‘interferometer’.

This interferometer allows images to be filtered for any unnecessary obscuring objects and, as a result, astronomers can see details up to 25 times finer than with the individual telescopes.

It has been involved in spotting the first image of an extrasolar planet, tracking individual stars moving around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way and observing the afterglow of the furthest known Gamma ray burst.

‘These discs around young stars are the birthplaces of planets, but so far only a handful of observations have detected hints of baby planets in them,’ explains Miriam Keppler, who lead the team behind the discovery of PDS 70’s still-forming planet.

‘The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc.’

It is believed that the planet is roughly 1.8 billion miles (three billion kilometres) from the central star, about the same as the distance between Uranus and the Sun.

For scale, that is almost as far as travelling around Earth’s equator almost 75,000 times.

Despite being this far from its star, the gas giant has a mass a few times heavier than Jupiter and its surface temperature exceeds 1,000°C (1832°F).

The newborn world was snapped using the ESO's Very Large Telescope (pictured) in Chile's Atacama desert and is thought to be 370 light years from Earth. It filtered out the signals of other celestial bodies to make the discovery possible

The newborn world was snapped using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (pictured) in Chile’s Atacama desert and is thought to be 370 light years from Earth. It filtered out the signals of other celestial bodies to make the discovery possible

Sphere had to use specially designed observing strategies and data processing techniques to filter out the signal of the faint planetary companions around the bright young star to make this discovery possible.

Thomas Henning, director at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and leader of the teams, summarises the scientific adventure: ‘After more than a decade of enormous efforts to build this high-tech machine, now Sphere enables us to reap the harvest with the discovery of baby planets!’

The Kepler telescope has been used to capture pictures of planets in their formative years, but not at this level of detail.

Dr Keppler says that the methods employed by the Kepler telescope, which is in orbit, are not perfect.

Kepler looks for drops in brightness as a planet passes in front of the star.

‘In this case we now have a direct image [of the planet] in its ‘birthplace’, which is the circumstellar disc,’ Dr Keppler told The Guardian.

‘This is especially important because people have been wondering [for a long time], how these planets actually form and how the dust and the material in this disc forms [into] a planet, and now we can directly observe this.’

The full findings will be published in two upcoming papers in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

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Non-Group Sun Grazing Comet

UNUSUAL COMET DIVE-BOMBS THE SUN: Astronomers are puzzling over a comet that passed “insanely close” to the sun on Feb. 19th. At first glance it appeared to be a small object, not much bigger than a comet-boulder, doomed to disintegrate in the fierce heat. Instead, it has emerged apparently intact and is actually brightening as it recedes from the sun. Click to view a post-flyby movie recorded on Feb. 20th by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO):

Unofficially, the icy visitor is being called “SOHO-2875,” because it is SOHO’s 2,875th comet discovery.

Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab explains what’s odd about SOHO-2875: “It’s a ‘non-group comet,’ meaning that it does not appear to be related to any other comet or comet family that we have on record.”

Most comets that SOHO sees belong to the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments from the breakup of a single giant comet many centuries ago. They get their name from 19th century German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who studied them in detail. SOHO-2875, however, is not one of those fragments.

“Non-group comets like this appear a few times a year, so in that sense it’s not too unusual,” continues Battams. “But this one is relatively bright. The big question most people will have now is, Can I see it, or will I be able to see it, from Earth? At first I thought the answer was no. But I am very pleasantly surprised–shocked in fact! The comet has brightened dramatically and now is sporting an increasingly impressive tail. Visibility from Earth in a few weeks is no longer out of the question, although I still wouldn’t put money on it.”

“I’ll continue to tweet updates on my feed, so folks can follow along there too.”


Celestial Highpoints of 2014

Most Interesting Celestial Events of 2014

astronomical events 2014What astronomical phenomena will be observable to people in different parts of the Earth this year?

2014 will be saturated with celestial events in respect of comets and asteroids, but less intense and interesting in respect of eclipses.

First on the list is a lunar eclipse which will occur on April 15 and will last 1 hour 19 minutes. Only the inhabitants of North and South America will be able to see the complete eclipse.

In 2 weeks after that, on April 29, a partial solar eclipse will take place when the Moon will cover the sun only partially. The eclipse will reach its maximum phase in Antarctica and will be observable to the inhabitants of Australia and Tasmania. The eclipse will last only 6 minutes.

The next eclipse will be a full moon, which will take place on October 8. This time, the eclipse will be seen to the inhabitants of North America, the eastern part of Russia, Australia, New Zealand and some other Pacific islands. This eclipse is interesting because during the total phase the Moon will cover Uranus.

Last eclipse of the list is a partial solar eclipse, which will happen on October 23 and will be visible in North America and eastern Russia.

The brightest asteroid of this year will be Vesta, one of the largest asteroids in the main asteroid belt. Its brightness is expected to peak in April when it will be visible with the naked eye. The second brightest asteroid will be Pallas, which is larger than Vesta and ranks first in size among all the asteroids in the main asteroid belt. Pallas will be seen later this month. Among the other most interesting asteroids, Hebe and Juno are worth noting.

Some sources mistakenly attributed Ceres to the asteroids and included it in the list above. However, Ceres had been considered an asteroid till August 24, 2006, when it was classified as a dwarf planet.

The bigger an asteroid is, the more sunlight it reflects. However, the brightness of an asteroid is heavily dependent on the albedo (reflectivity characteristics of its surface), which in turn is determined by the composition of its constituent species. For example, the asteroid Vesta reflects 4 times more light than the dwarf planet Ceres because of the high albedo of the surface and is the most visible asteroid in the sky, which often can be seen even with the naked eye.

The brightest comets will be 154P (P/Brewington), C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy), C/2012 X1 (LINEAR), C/2012 K1 (PanSTARRS) and C/2013 A1 (McNaught). The list may vary depending on the expected increase in brightness and the discovery of new comets.


Of Gamma Ray Bubbles and Dark Matter


Amy Shira Teitel
Analysis by Amy Shira Teitel
Tue May 8, 2012 11:37 AM ET


Dark matter, the elusive stuff that makes up a substantial portion of all the mass in the universe, is largely a mystery to astronomers. They’ve tried finding it and creating it, but so far no conclusive proof as to what exactly it is though most theories state that we interact with it through gravity.

But Christoph Weniger, of the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich, has a different theory to explain new possible evidence for dark matter. By carrying out statistical analysis of three and a half years worth of publicly available data from NASA’s Fermi Space Telescope, he’s found a gamma ray line across the sky that he says is a clear signature of dark matter.

Astrophysicists generally think that supermassive black holes, like the one at the center of the Milky Way, release jets that interact with surrounding dark matter. This interaction is thought to be the source of high-energy gamma rays that satellites like Fermi can detect. What satellites can see are the photons produced when these jets interact with dark matter.

Weniger looked for signs of such an interaction in about three and a half years worth of gamma-ray observations carried out by the Fermi satellite’s Large Area Telescope (LAT).

To increase his chances of success he only considered data from those regions of the Milky Way that should generate the highest ratios of dark-matter photons to photons from background sources. He was looking specifically for a peak in energy, a sign that a photon was produced by the collision between and annihilation of two particles; the photon left over should have the same mass as one dark matter particle. This energy would theoretically appear as a very narrow peak, a line in gamma-ray spectra, distinct from the broad energy distribution seen across the visible universe.

That’s just what he found — a line in the gamma ray spectrum.

But he’s quick to admit it’s a provisional result. His data points come from about 50 photons and he’ll need a lot more to prove conclusively that his line is related to dark matter. It’s possible the line he observed is from a known, though no less mysterious, astronomical phenomenon: the pair of enormous gamma-ray-emitting bubbles extending outwards from the plane of the Milky Way.

In December 2010, scientists working with the Fermi Space Telescope found two giant lobes extending from the black hole at the center of our galaxy.

Twenty-five thousand light years high, each bubble spans more than half of the visible sky reaching from the constellation Virgo to the constellation Grus and may be relatively young at just a million or so years old.

The bubbles are a recent find, normally masked by the fog of gamma rays that appears throughout the sky that is a result of particles moving near the speed of light interacting with light and interstellar gas in the Milky Way. Scientists only found the bubbles by manipulating the data from the LAT to draw out the striking feature.

The manipulated images show the bubbles have well defined edges, suggesting they were formed as a result of a large and relatively rapid energy release — the source of which is still unknown. Interestingly, the energy cutoff of the bubbles corresponds to the gamma ray line Weniger found, the one he’s associating with a dark matter signature.

It’s possible the bubbles and the line have the same origin. Or, dark matter might be the cause of the bubbles’ defined endpoint.

Whether or not the two observations turn out to be linked — which of course hinges on conclusive proof of Weniger’s gamma ray line — both are very cool and part of the fascinating and mystery nature of our corner of the universe.

Image credit: NASA-Goddard


This Galaxy is a Real Square

Strange Square-Shaped Galaxy Discovered



An international team of astronomers discovered a rectangular‑shaped galaxy within a group of 250 galaxies some 70 million light years away. “In the Universe around us, most galaxies exist in one of three forms: spheroidal, disc-like, or lumpy and irregular in appearance,” said Alister Graham from Swinburne University of Technology.

He said the rare rectangular-shaped galaxy was a very unusual object. “It’s one of those things that just makes you smile because it shouldn’t exist, or rather you don’t expect it to exist. It’s a little like the precarious Leaning Tower of Pisa or the discovery of some exotic new species which at first glance appears to defy the laws of nature.”The unusually shaped galaxy was detected in a wide field-of-view image taken with the Japanese Subaru Telescope for an unrelated program by Swinburne astrophysicist Dr Lee Spitler.The astronomers suspect it is unlikely that this galaxy is shaped like a cube. Instead, they believe that it may resemble an inflated disc seen side on, like a short cylinder.

Support for this scenario comes from observations with the giant Keck Telescope in Hawaii, which revealed a rapidly spinning, thin disc with a side‑on orientation lurking at the centre of the galaxy. The outermost measured edge of this galactic disc is rotating at a speed in excess of 100,000 kilometres per hour.

“One possibility is that the galaxy may have formed out of the collision of two spiral galaxies,” said Swinburne’s Professor Duncan Forbes, co‑author of the research. “While the pre-existing stars from the initial galaxies were strewn to large orbits creating the emerald cut shape, the gas sank to the mid‑plane where it condensed to form new stars and the disc that we have observed.”

Despite its apparent uniqueness, partly due to its chance orientation, the astronomers have managed to glean useful information for modelling other galaxies.While the outer boxy shape is somewhat reminiscent of galaxy merger simulations which don’t involve the production of new stars, the disc-like structure is comparable with merger simulations involving star formation.

“This highlights the importance of combining lessons learned from both types of past simulation for better understanding galaxy evolution in the future,” said Associate Professor Graham.“One of the reasons this emerald cut galaxy was hard to find is due to its dwarf-like status: it has 50 times less stars than our own Milky Way galaxy, plus its distance from us is equivalent to that spanned by 700 Milky Way galaxies placed end-to-end.“Curiously, if the orientation was just right, when our own disc-shaped galaxy collides with the disc-shaped Andromeda galaxy about three billion years from now we may find ourselves the inhabitants of a square looking galaxy.”

The results will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.More information: Pre-publication: … 3.3608v1.pdf

The Daily Galaxy via Swinburne University of Technology


Help Rename New Mexico’s Very Large Array Radio Telescope

VLA New MexicoThe NRAO’s VLA facility just west of Socorro, New Mexico is completing a decade long state-of-the-art electronics infrastructure upgrade bringing its capabilities well into the 21st century, some say even surpassing that of the recently activated VLT in Chile. To commemorate this milestone, the NRAO is holding a renaming contest at The organization desires a new name that will both embody the landmark work the VLA has provided for over 30 years and express its significance as a leader in radio astronomy observations.
Your entry will be competing with some of the best minds in community and you have 6 weeks to meet the deadline of December 1st, 2011.


“Observe the Moon” Night 10/08

‘Observe the Moon Night’ to Light Up Skywatchers on Saturday

by Denise Chow, Staff Writer
Date: 07 October 2011 Time: 02:54 PM ET
A setting, waning crescent moon amid the thin line of Earth's atmosphere.
A setting, waning crescent moon amid the thin line of Earth’s atmosphere.

This weekend, the nearly full moon will to take center stage Saturday night for skywatchers around the world.

Amateur astronomers and casual stargazers are gearing up for the second annual International Observe the Moon Night on Saturday (Oct. 8), in what promises to be a fun and stimulating public event, organizers say.

NASA and lunar enthusiasts the world over are set to celebrate Earth’s natural satellite tomorrow in a worldwide event designed to engage people in lunar science and education. Space enthusiasts and the general public are invited to gather together, look up, and learn more about the enchanting moon

nternational Observe the Moon Night got its start after two earlier NASA celebrations that aimed to spark interest and enthusiasm about Earth’s nearest neighbor in the sky.

The full moon is expected to peak on Oct. 12, but it will be the smallest and most distant full moon of the year. This year’s International Observe the Moon Night also coincides with the peak of the Draconid meteor shower, which is expected to deliver hundreds of “shooting stars” per hour. But, the meteor shower’s peak could be largely invisible to skywatchers, since it occurs during daylight hours in NorthAmerica, and elsewhere, the nearly full moon will likely outshine the pretty light show.

Several NASA centers, such as the Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will host public events tomorrow night.

The event organizers include scientists, educators and moon buffs from government, non-profit organizations and businesses across the U.S. and the world.

“We believe in the inspirational power of the moon — a celestial body that has influenced human lives since the dawn of time,” the event’s website reads. “Through International Observe the Moon Night, we hope [to] instill in the public a sense of wonderment and curiosity about our moon.”

Last year, there were 278 moon-watching events in more than 40 countries, including China, Germany and Egypt.

NASA has one spacecraft circling the moon, a pair of small spacecraft that recently entered into the moon’s orbit, and a pair of twin probes that are expected to arrive at the moon by New Year’s Day.

The unmanned Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been circling the moon since June 2009. The car-size spacecraft recently snapped images of three Apollo landing sites that revealed new details about the regions on the moon that were visited by humans. The $504 million probe is currently on an extended mission through at least September 2012.

The two small Artemis probes, which stand for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun, began their lunar orbit journey over a year and a half ago. This summer, both probes entered into lunar orbit, where they will study the moon’s interior and surface composition.

Last month, NASA successfully launched two identical spacecraft on a mission to unlock mysteries of the moon that are hidden beneath its surface. The $496 million Grail mission (short for Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) will closely study the interior of the moon, from crust to core, and will map the moon’s gravitational field in unprecedented detail.

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Archaeogeodesy can be defined as that area of study encompassing prehistoric and ancient place determination, navigation (on land or water), point positioning, measure and representation of the earth, geodynamic phenomena, and the applied astronomy. Archaeogeodesy, by combining fundamental astronomy, geodetic knowledge, applied mathematics, accurate positional data and archaeology, presents a methodology for investigating the architecture, placements, spatial properties, relationships and arrangements of prehistoric sites and monuments. As a new area of inquiry, archaeogeodesy presents unique avenues of assessing ancient understandings of geography, of place, and of the earth and the cosmos as evidenced by archaeological remains.

Miamisburg Mound, Ohio

We generally regard temporally, spatially and culturally diverse ancient monuments as unrelated. The many pyramids of Egypt, whether stepped, bent, or true, have interrelationships, however understudied. What of the other pyramids and similar mounds dispersed the world over? Few would argue no relationship between neighboring earthworks in North America, for example, yet their similarities to Neolithic mounds and circular embankments of the British Isles go relatively unnoticed. Visitors to Stonehenge and other stone circles who notice surrounding earthworks are unlikely to postulate connections, spatial or functional, to similar earthen monuments in distant Ohio because of an intervening ocean.

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