Monday, October 3, 2016

Power Beaming Leakage Could be Detectable for SETI


Benford et al


The most observable leakage radiation from an advanced civilization may well be from the use of power beaming to transfer energy and accelerate spacecraft. Applications suggested for power beaming involve launching spacecraft to orbit, raising satellites to a higher orbit, and interplanetary concepts involving space-to-space transfers of cargo or passengers. We also quantify beam-driven launch to the outer solar system, interstellar precursors, and ultimately starships. We estimate the principal observable parameters of power beaming leakage. Extraterrestrial civilizations would know their power beams could be observed, and so could put a message on the power beam and broadcast it for our receipt at little additional energy or cost. By observing leakage from power beams we may find a message embedded on the beam. Recent observations of the anomalous star KIC 8462852 by the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) set some limits on extraterrestrial power beaming in that system. We show that most power beaming applications commensurate with those suggested for our solar system would be detectable if using the frequency range monitored by the ATA, and so the lack of detection is a meaningful, if modest, constraint on extraterrestrial power beaming in that system. Until more extensive observations are made, the limited observation time and frequency coverage are not sufficiently broad in frequency and duration to produce firm conclusions. Such beams would be visible over large interstellar distances. This implies a new approach to the SETI search: instead of focusing on narrowband beacon transmissions generated by another civilization, look for more powerful beams with much wider bandwidth. This requires a new approach for their discovery by telescopes on Earth. Further studies of power beaming applications should be performed, potentially broadening the parameter space of the observable features that we have discussed here.

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