Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Signal called "suspicious"

No sooner has news spread of Gliese 581g, a recently discovered exoplanet that more than a few astronomers believe may support life, than there is now a report of a strange, intermittent signal originating from the area of the planet.
Sounds great, right?  Aliens are contacting us!  Not so fast.
When Frank Drake, legendary astronomer and the godfather of SETI, asked this scientist for details on the signal, none were given.  Needless to say, this has reinforced already growing skepticism in the scientific community as to the veracity of this "signal."  Plus, this is not the first time that the Australian astronomer in question has made such a claim.  The first was in 2008 and now the claim has been adjusted (no insurance pun intended) to argue that the pulses of light were seen in the area of Gliese 581g.  Convenient.
Gliese 581g has been touted as a notable discovery as its orbit occurs within what is colloquially called "the goldlilocks zone;" it's not too hot and it's not too cold.  In other words, it's in an orbit quite similar to that of Earth and therefore likely to support life.  It is four times the size of our planet and it is one of six other worlds in its solar system.  That is to say, six others that we have discovered thus far.
Nobod wants verification of alien life more than me.  I want it so badly my bones hurt.  But logically, I must convey the same suspicions that astronomers have expressed as to this "laser beacon claim."  If the scientist in question indeed has any pertinent data that would bolster his case, then I urge him to turn it over for peer review (because I just know he reads Strange Horizons, right?)  Any other way will only lead to further deligitmization of exobiological studies.


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