Searching for cost-optimized interstellar beacons.


What would SETI beacon transmitters be like if built by civilizations that had a variety of motives but cared about cost? In a companion paper, we presented how, for fixed power density in the far field, a cost-optimum interstellar beacon system could be built. Here, we consider how we should search for a beacon if it were produced by a civilization similar to ours. High-power transmitters could be built for a wide variety of motives other than the need for two-way communication; this would include beacons built to be seen over thousands of light-years. Extraterrestrial beacon builders would likely have to contend with economic pressures just as their terrestrial counterparts do. Cost, spectral lines near 1 GHz, and interstellar scintillation favor radiating frequencies substantially above the classic "water hole." Therefore, the transmission strategy for a distant, cost-conscious beacon would be a rapid scan of the galactic plane with the intent to cover the angular space. Such pulses would be infrequent events for the receiver. Such beacons built by distant, advanced, wealthy societies would have very different characteristics from what SETI researchers seek. Future searches should pay special attention to areas along the galactic disk where SETI searches have seen coherent signals that have not recurred on the limited listening time intervals we have used. We will need to wait for recurring events that may arrive in intermittent bursts. Several new SETI search strategies have emerged from these ideas. We propose a new test for beacons that is based on the Life Plane hypotheses.

DOI: 10.1089/ast.2009.0394

Cite this paper

@article{Benford2010SearchingFC, title={Searching for cost-optimized interstellar beacons.}, author={Gregory Benford and James N. Benford and Dominic J. Benford}, journal={Astrobiology}, year={2010}, volume={10 5}, pages={491-8} }