Scientists have found dozens of stars with signs of high-tech Dyson spheres

Maria ShevchukNews
Astronomers find possible evidence of spheres from which alien civilizations draw energy. Source: iStock

Two studies of millions of stars in our galaxy have revealed strange bursts of infrared heat coming from dozens of them. Astronomers say this could be evidence of the existence of alien civilizations.

Unexplored worlds can harness the energy of their stars through a huge structure known as a Dyson sphere. Although scientists do not completely rule out more mundane explanations, New Scientist writes.

Dyson spheres were first talked about in the 1960s. These are hypothetical structures that can surround entire stars and absorb their energy. It is assumed that Dyson spheres are a possible means by which some aliens could receive huge amounts of energy.

If such objects exist, they should be warm enough to emit a detectable infrared glow - a "technosignature" that could alert us to the presence of alien life.

Scientists have found dozens of stars with signs of high-tech Dyson spheres

Two teams of astronomers worked on the search for potential Dyson spheres: one led by Mathias Suazo from Uppsala University in Sweden, and the other by Gabi Contardo from the International School for Advanced Study in Italy. They combined data from the European Space Agency's (ESA) Gaia satellite, which records the position and motion of billions of stars in our galaxy, with infrared imaging from ground-based and space-based telescopes.

Each team analyzed the same 5 million stars from the combined datasets, and both found signs of excess infrared heat that cannot be explained by known natural processes.

"The most interesting explanation could be true Dyson spheres," said Suazo.

His team noticed unexplained signals in seven red dwarfs within 900 light-years of Earth. These stars are smaller and dimmer than our Sun, but in the infrared, they were 60 times brighter than expected.

This excess could be caused by something with a temperature of up to 400°C. This corresponds to what we would expect from a Dyson sphere.

Up to 16% of the surface of each star would have to be obscured to explain the signal. Therefore, it could be what is called a Dyson swarm - a collection of large satellites that orbit the star to collect energy. But that is if the cause is indeed of artificial origin.

"It doesn't look like a single hard shell around the star," says team member Jason Wright of Pennsylvania State University.

Scientists have found dozens of stars with signs of high-tech Dyson spheres

Contardo's results are even more extensive: 53 candidates were found among larger stars, including those similar to the Sun, and located up to 6500 light-years from Earth.

One natural rationale that could mimic the properties of a Dyson sphere is that stars are surrounded by hot, planet-forming debris disks. But most of the stars found by both teams appear to be too old for that. Another possibility is that each star could have accidentally been in front of a distant galaxy that emits infrared light.

The infrared signals could also be the result of an unknown natural process.

"It could be something that happens very rarely, such as a collision between two planets that produces a huge amount of material," says David Hogg of New York University, who worked with Contardo. The scientist is inclined to believe that this is a natural phenomenon.

The James Webb Space Telescope can shed more light on these stars, revealing whether the infrared heat comes from natural dust or something else.

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