It might be time for space entrepreneurs to dust off their old copies of Carl Sagan’s Contact or watch a rerun of Independence Day. A Russian radio telescope has detected a “strong signal” from a nearby star called HD164595b.
Is it alien life from another planet? The star is 95 light years away, and it is almost the size of our own sun. It has one planet that is about the size of Neptune, according to the Guardian.
False alarm or not, this kind of event is pretty earthshaking. If it’s true, it could very well propel a new kind of space race. And even if it’s not, it could help a lot of tech-related businesses and institutions that have a stake in space, from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) in Mountain View, California, to creators of space video games. Space startups are already seeing a bit of a renaissance.
The strange thing is that the Russians waited a whole year to make available the readings from Russian radio telescope Ratan-600.
SETI, a private organization, gets funding from the U.S. government and others to search for evidence of alien life. I can think of a lot of companies, from Elon Musk’s SpaceX to the world’s aerospace companies, that will get very excited about this. Jeff Bezos has a space startup called Blue Origin, and billionaire Richard Branson has Virgin Galactic.
The news filtered out slowly on Saturday via Claudio Maccone of the University of Turin in Italy, who attended a talk by the scientists who recorded the signal. Maccone shared the data from the presentation with the science and science-fiction writer Paul Gilster, who maintains a blog about interstellar exploration called Centauri Dreams.
Maccone told the Guardian, “The power of the signal received is not unrealistic for type I civilizations.” But so far, it’s not confirmed that the signal came from a source of intelligent life. If it isn’t from intelligent life, well, then this will be the domain of the science fiction writers and video game creators, rather than space startups.