NEW YORK — A “Star Trek”-style detector here on Earth right now could actually act like “long-range sensors” and spot alien spaceships traveling through the Milky Way galaxy.
Researchers with the New York think tank Applied Physics say the device picks up gravitational waves — incredibly fast ripples formed by the movement of massive objects. Named LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), the instrument could hold the key to identifying extraterrestrials’ mega-technology.
LIGO could possibly point out “warp drives,” the same theoretical engines that fueled the U.S.S. Enterprise’s interstellar missions in the cult TV series. However, they would only have to come within about 326,000 light years of Earth for LIGO to spot their waves. More sensitive machines are already in the planning stages, and they would extend the range even further.
“With trillions of stars out there, you are telling me that one doesn’t have aliens that haven’t done this? Just one? I think the odds are in our favor,” says lead study author Gianni Martire, CEO of Applied Physics, according to a statement from SWNS.
Experts believe vehicles powerful enough to surf the universe would be massive, possibly as big as a giant gas planet like Jupiter! The study, on the pre-print server arXiv, found such a ship would have to be moving at about a tenth of the speed of light — almost 20,000 miles a second.
“I wouldn’t want to be on the team figuring out how to build a Jupiter-sized spacecraft, but the odds aren’t zero,” says Martire, who is also an inventor and physicist.
How does ‘warp drive’ work?
Warp drives work by deforming the fabric of space-time around the spaceship, creating their own “wrinkles” as they move. The existence of gravitational waves were first predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago. They were confirmed when the twin LIGO interferometers located in Louisiana and Washington captured the collision of two black holes.
“How do you know the difference between a comet and the starship Enterprise?” Martire tells SWNS. “You can tell between a rock and a warp drive the same way you can tell whether a jet
ski went past or a boat. They both create waves, but they have a particular signature in their wake.”
Even if it isn’t an alien spacecraft but simply a huge object moving far faster than we expect anything that big to go, it would be an important find in astronomy.
“Even if it’s not aliens, it’d be something new. It would be exciting no matter what it is,” Martire says, according to SWNS.
Until then, why not check out the best Star Trek captains of all time?
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.