back to article Shh! Proxima Centauri can hear us!

In the unlikely case that Proxima Centauri is inhabited, that its inhabitants are technologically developed ahead of Earth, and its inhabitants actually care about us, its media might is just catching up with the stories of 2008. Nearby and more contemporaneously, an ANU researcher, Ben McKinley, has run a calculation for …


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  1. Kevin 6

    "However, separating any useful information from the mass of signals sharing the same radio band would pose something of a challenge."

    So you seem to be talking about FOX, and all their other stations eh?

  2. Joe User

    More likely that the Proxima Centaurians have heard and seen the broadcasts from Earth and concluded that there is no intelligent life to be found here.

    1. JeevesMkII

      Perhaps more likely...

      Our first contact with aliens will be a demand to know what happened in Eastenders in the last 5 years.

  3. Arthur Kater :-D ☺

    4 years from now

    So maybe in about 4 years from now, the Proxima Centaurians are dancing Gangnam style ;-)

    1. Roger Stenning

      Re: 4 years from now

      If that's the case, then the first interstellar war isn't far behind, if only to rid the galaxy of the menace that Humanity presents!

      1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

        Re: 4 years from now

        And we shall send our awesome army - the X-Factor contestants. They will hit them with the mighty sword of talent!

        1. hplasm

          Re: 4 years from now

          The mighty Sword of Talent is a myth- but let's send them anyway.

          1. VinceH

            Re: 4 years from now

            Just to clarify... you are talking about only giving them enough fuel to get there, aren't you?

            Thinking about it, though, that would give them the option of changing their minds when they're only half way there. Let's only give them enough fuel to get that far.

            1. Anonymous Coward/2.0

              Re: 4 years from now

              No fuel, launch them with a solar sail powered by lasers based at home. That way its definitely a one-way trip.

              1. BorkedAgain
                Thumb Up

                Re: 4 years from now

                I like the solar sail idea, but would it be a terrible thing if we forgot to pack the sail and just turned on the lasers anyway?

  4. Robert Heffernan

    USB Dongle SDR?

    I wonder if using the right kind of setup, you could point an antenna at the moon and detect the reflected radio noise from the moon on one of the DVBT/SDR USB dongles?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: USB Dongle SDR?

      I'd imagine that you'd need a rather large aerial... the neighbours would need to be exceptionally accommodating. Perhaps you could win them over by offering a feed of the German erotoscatology channels?

      It might also be a bit of a challenge to filter the signal into something useful.

    2. Ru

      Re: USB Dongle SDR?

      There were a few interesting comments about what SDR could and could not do in a recent Reg article on what might be terms a software-defined antenna. Might be worth a little archive trawl.

      Short answer: SDR might do a nice job handling the signal your antenna picks up, but it still needs an appropriate antenna to provide that signal.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: USB Dongle SDR?

      First: Google "EME" and "moonbounce" - there are amateur radio operators doing that all the time. It's difficult: you have to have a significant antenna system on both the transmitting and receiving end (think of the largest TV aerial you've seen, one of the 10 foot long ones, then stack 4 in an array), the transmitting end is usually running the maximum allowed power (in the US, 1000 watts), and the receiving end has a very sensitive receiver (far more so than one of those USB dongles will have). The signals sent are designed to be easy to pick up - far easier than FM broadcast, let alone TV - and even then, are often undetectable.

      Even with a very large antenna, a very low noise preamp, and the best SDR, there's simply not enough information in the signals reflected off the Moon to allow you to pull out one specific broadcast station from all the others on the same frequency. *IF* you had an enormous number of antenna and receivers all over the world, and you could then use spatial diversity, you *might* be able to get enough information, based upon different paths from the stations to the Moon to all your different antenna, to pull it out - but then again, you'd likely have an antenna right next to whatever station you wanted to listen to, and could listen to it directly.

      With respect to a hypothetical listener Out There, the worst thing that has happened has been the transition to digital. Analog signals have enough information in them to work out what is going on - AM is trivial (The signal "looks like" the original audio), FM almost so, and even TV could be worked out reasonably well (the color aspect would be a bit hard to work out a priori, but the horizontal scan rate and vertical scan rates are obvious in the spectrum of the signal - getting black and white would be pretty easy).

      But with digital: there's not enough information in the signal to work out the theory behind MPEG. You could infer the gross framing structure, you might be able to work out the part of the signal the provides EPG data, but the audio and video streams would be a total mystery. And that assumes no encryption, and also that you can see the signal - digital signals are designed to be very much like noise, with none of the spectral redundancy that makes AM, FM, PAL and NTSC easy to work out.

  5. Mondo the Magnificent

    This tells me TWO things...

    Firstly, the Clangers know exactly what's going on here on planet earth

    Secondly, our kids may dream of circuit boards and build a pressurised orb and travel to outer space, a-la the 1985 film "Explorers"

  6. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik

    Quick sue the moon

    for copyright infringement. It's broadcasting without a license!!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quick sue the moon

      No, send it snotty,threatening letters-it's watching TV without a licence.

    2. Gav

      Not broadcasting, aggregating

      It's not broadcasting, it's aggregating. If anything the Moon could sue Google News for copying its idea.

  7. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Take me to your ... Pope.

    Transmitters getting smaller. The trend is towards a larger number of smaller transmitters.

    There are plenty of numbers for radio transmitter power all over the internet. Most do not explain if they are quoting the power output of the electronics or the power that would be required to get the same signal strength from an omnidirectional antenna as is transmitted in the preferred direction of the installed directional antenna. Digital switch over in the UK reduced the power output by a factor of about 10. There were some really big short wave transmitters intended to bounce signals off the ionosphere. The Russians found that over about 1.25MW, the signal punched a hole through the ionosphere and went on into space instead.

    The largest omnidirectional transmitter I could find (probably) still operating was Vatican Radio at 500MW (I could easily be very wrong. Health issues make Vatican Radio a prominent topic on the internet). I really hope that Vatican Radio is not the clearest signal sent from Earth.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: Take me to your ... Pope.

      > Health issues make Vatican Radio a prominent topic on the internet

      Mental health concerns?

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Take me to your ... Pope.

        Apparently they broadcast an hourly annoncement looking for "lost orphans" that would like to become choirboys ( complete discretion required ).

        There is also an annoncement for any extra stellar beings named as "Jesus" or "Mary". It is important that they contact the Vatican immediately as their presence is requested for future fund raising galas. ( The existing ones are running a little low on appeal).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Take me to your ... Pope.

          @Khaptain: "annoncement"

          Unfortunate typo in the circumstances.

    2. Bob H

      Re: Take me to your ... Pope.

      If you discount omni-directionality then I would suspect that the DTT transmitters from Germany or France might make a significant contribution because they form an SFN, essentially a giant in-phase network with lots of error correction.

    3. Nuke

      @Flocke Kroes - Re: Take me to your ... Pope.

      Wrote : - "The largest omnidirectional transmitter I could find (probably) still operating was Vatican Radio at 500MW (I could easily be very wrong"

      500MW ?! That is the output of a medium sized power station.

      I thought that the signals most likely to be picked up by aliens are the focused beams of radar, which, although not carrying information, would be recognisable to aliens as being of artificial origin.

    4. rongorongo

      Re: Take me to your ... Pope.

      500MW is about half the power of a medium sized nuclear reactor, probably you mean 500kW, that is also huge for radio signals, but I think it is a more realistic figure.


    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: largest transmitter.

      Loads of people have 1 MW AM transmitters (LW and MW, made in Europe, Russia and USA).

      France has a longwave station that in it's heyday, before commercial FM got off the ground, could output up to 3 MW carrier level + 100% AM on longwave into a slightly directional antenna. Not sure how many people are still running with very high AM power levels nowadays.

  8. Tom 7 Silver badge

    They could be doing signal analysis

    and if they saw the TV that I saw last night came to the conclusion there was no data in it so no intelligent life on earth.

  9. Androgynous Crackwhore

    What about Woodpecker?

    I doubt there's anywhere in the universe distant enough to escape the emissions from that thing... and once the signals reach a civilisation advanced enough, it won't be long before they send someone out to shut us the fuck up.

    <------------ your great grandchildren are dead

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about Woodpecker?

      So what about Woodpecker? Do they still sell that swill? And what has the drink of tramps (icon) got to do with Alpha Centaurians?

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: What about Woodpecker?


        Too much mass produced crap cider now.

      2. Androgynous Crackwhore
        Big Brother


        On the off-chance that you're drinking the piss not taking it...

        I was referring to "Woodpecker" the Soviet ICBM detection RADAR, rather than "Woodpecker" the fermented apple abonination. I doubt the emissions arising from the latter are detected more than a few hundred metres from source - under normal conditions.

        1. Khaptain Silver badge

          Re: @Ledswinger

          Shit , I though you were talking about "Woody"....

  10. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    Proxima Centauri ...

    Wasn't the local planning office there (or was that alpha Centauri).

    1. DJ 2
      Thumb Up

      Re: Proxima Centauri ...

      It was in the general Alpha Centauri system, so yes to both accounts, it's a tri-sun system.

  11. Richard Wharram

    Proxies surely.


    1. Richard IV

      Re: Proxies surely.

      We don't know their names, so Anonymous Proxies surely.

  12. MJI Silver badge

    Now who lives there?

    Excluding colony stories, what is there in Sci Fi?

    1. Busby

      Re: Now who lives there?

      New Earth according to Asimovs Foundation and Earth

  13. David Glasgow

    But back in the days of Brylcreme....

    Presumably the dearth of signals would be easy to disentangle.

    Hope they don't turn up to destroy earth / catch the last episode of Here's Lucy or Single White Female Lawyer.

  14. Jon Green

    More seriously...

    It probably won't matter to any supposed Centaurians that they can't easily disentangle the signals. The fact that there are so many, on so many different frequencies, that could not possibly have been emitted without a living intelligence, is information enough.

    What will doubtless engage the Centaurians in much debate for years to come will be the question of what sort of societal structure could give rise to uber-technologists who can create the means of transmission, and some sort of degenerate subspecies that actually uses it to broadcast - not to mention what on Earth (literally) would be interested in paying attention to the results.

  15. G R Goslin

    Don't worry

    No need to worry. By now they'll have come to the conclusion that there's no intelligent life on Earth.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't worry

      Speak for yourself...

  16. Dezweb52

    Will we hear them?

    If our radio waves are reaching them, is there a chance that their radio waves will be heard by us? Depending if there is life and it has established similar technologies?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Crisp

        Re: Will we hear them?

        It's not a complete waste of time and money. And for all we know there might be a civilisation out there that might be broadcasting a strong analogue signal. We wont know unless we look.

      2. David Pollard

        Re: Will we hear them?

        Although SETI may well be a rather large waste of time and money, it would appear to be helping Dr Steven Greer to coin in the latter without too much effort.

        Amongst other activities, his CSETI project has apparently taken paying trainees to a secret location where they make telepathic contact with aliens. His so-called Disclosure Project raised funds on kickstarter for a film to provide testimonial details explaining how governments are withholding information about their extra-terrestrial contacts. Coming soon to a cinema near you, presumably.

  17. Spook

    Isn't this very old news?

    IIRC they were doing "moon bounce" tests back in the 50s to a provide satellite communications relay path.

  18. Drew 11

    Listening now it would be a complete shambles. But if they were listening in the early years of Earth radio with only 1 transmitter per channel...

  19. DJV Silver badge

    I'm just hoping that...

    ...someone/thing around 49 light years away is getting ready to set up their video recorders and will post the missing Dr Who episodes back to us at some point.

    1. Bod

      Re: I'm just hoping that...

      Hmm, if we can pick up stuff bounced off the moon, perhaps we can pick up stuff bounced off an object far enough away. Somewhere 25 radio (light?) years away that would just be ending the return trip so signals from 50 years ago.

      Then just need those restoration boffins to extract the picture from the noise.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    So Proxima Centuri is getting our 2008 media right now?

    So right now the Proxies are wondering who the Gorillaz really are and whether they can lick the Dark Knight and Obama's Hope and Change if they decide on invasion?

  21. Lost in Cyberspace

    Let's hope

    That our technology is advanced enough to fend off an alien invasion by the time it happens.

    Perhaps we shouldn't be broadcasting our whereabouts just yet.

    1. Kharkov

      Re: Let's hope

      Alien Invasion? Nah.

      Showing up to complain about the noise? Maybe.

      Although what we'll do if they want to borrow the lawnmower, I've no idea...

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Let's hope

      They are a bit worried, they are also wondering why we have not visited them when we are so near, why have they not been visited by The United Federation of Planets.


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