Kardashev Type II Civilization Detected Around a Star 95 Light-Years Away?

Very, very unlikely


E.T./Universal Studios

Lots of news reports are speculating about a new paper issued by Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) researchers in Russia that reports the detection of a signal anomaly coming from the direction of a star 95 light-years away. What's interesting about the star—HD164595—is that it's about the size and age of Sol and shares similar level of metallicity. And other researchers have apparently detected a Neptune-sized planet circling it.

According to researchers the signal is so strong that, if intentional, it could only be being emitted by a Kardashev Type II civilization, that is, one run by extraterrestrials that …

… can harness the power of their entire star (not merely transforming starlight into energy, but controlling the star). Several methods for this have been proposed. The most popular of which is the hypothetical 'Dyson Sphere.' This device, if you want to call it that, would encompass every single inch of the star, gathering most (if not all) of its energy output and transferring it to a planet for later use. Alternatively, if fusion power (the mechanism that powers stars) had been mastered by the race, a reactor on a truly immense scale could be used to satisfy their needs. Nearby gas giants can be utilized for their hydrogen, slowly drained of life by an orbiting reactor.

The Russian results are going to be presented at the IAA (International Academy of Astronautics) SETI Permanent Committee's meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico, which convenes on September 27th.

So is E.T. really calling? Berkeley SETI@Home project scientist Eric Korpela greatly doubts it. In a blogpost over at the Berkeley site, he observes:

I was one of the many people who received the the email with the subject "Candidate SETI SIGNAL DETECTED by Russians from star HD 164595 by virtue of RATAN-600 radio telescope." Since the email did come from known SETI researchers, I looked over the presentation. I was unimpressed. In one out of 39 scans that passed over star showed a signal at about 4.5 times the mean noise power with a profile somewhat like the beam profile. Of course SETI@home has seen millions of potential signals with similar characteristics, but it takes more than that to make a good candidate. Multiple detections are a minimum criterion.

Because the receivers used were making broad band measurements, there's really nothing about this "signal" that would distinguish it from a natural radio transient (stellar flare, active galactic nucleus, microlensing of a background source, etc.) There's also nothing that could distinguish it from a satellite passing through the telescope field of view. All in all, it's relatively uninteresting from a SETI standpoint.

Now about that Dyson Sphere detected over at Tabby's Star ….