By Tim Binnall
A scientist at MIT has proposed a novel new approach to establishing contact with ETs: create a proverbial 'porch light' for Earth that will attract their attention. Graduate student James Clark laid out the plan in a newly-published paper in which he examined the feasibility of using lasers to produce a beacon which would shoot out into space. According to his research, a powerful 1-to-2 megawatt laser could be aimed through a giant telescope to create an enormous beam of infrared radiation that would easily be noticed by advanced civilizations looking for life in our corner of the universe.
In fact, Clark's computations suggest that the beam could be visible up to 20,000 light years away. That number is significant because Trappist-1, the closest star which boasts exoplanents that may harbor life, sits a mere 40 light years from Earth. And, of course, the 19,960 light years beyond that may contain countless potential worlds within the vaunted 'Goldilocks zone' that might potentially come across the beacon emanating from Earth.
Part of what makes Clark's research exciting is that such an idea could be put into practice in the near future using technology already available or soon to come to fruition. That said, the researcher noted that the 'porch light' is not without its problems as, much like the sun, the beacon could prove to be dangerous to anyone foolish enough to look directly at it. As such, he conceded that the ideal location for the beam's source would probably be on the dark side of the moon where it would not interfere with Earthly affairs.
Spoken like a true scientist, Clark mused that "this was a feasibility study. Whether or not this is a good idea, that's a discussion for future work." Indeed, one hopes that there would be considerable debate here on Earth before we decided to flip the switch and let aliens know that we are home.Then again, it may be too late for that, since a group of scientists have already sent a radio signal from Earth specifically with the intention of contacting ETs and without anyone having a say in the matter, so it may all be a moot point if they pick up that message first.