An alien civilization might move six or seven planets into a series of carefully arranged orbits as a sign to announce its existence. To find out, we just have to think mathematically.
Multiple bodies are located in what astronomers call resonant orbits around their mother body. For example, for each orbit that Jupiter’s moon Europa completes, another nearby moon, called Io, completes two orbits, write inverse.
For every two Europa orbits they complete, Ganymede — the next moon — completes two, giving them a 4:2:1 echo. There’s even a planetary system, K2-138, that has an entire fleet of planets in resonance.
In a recent article published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, planetary scientist Matthew Clement, of the Carnegie Institution for Science and the Earth and Planetary Laboratory, and his colleagues suggested that a sufficiently powerful and stimulating extraterrestrial civilization could arrange entire planetary solar systems in resonant orbits of the most complex proportions – A summary of a mathematical concept widespread throughout nature.
Foreigners can leave behind new marks
This arrangement of planets can help them announce their existence to remote seekers like us.
It is theoretically possible, according to Clement and colleagues, who have simulated solar systems with multiple sets of resonant orbits. Simulated solar systems have been shown to be stable for at least 10 billion years, roughly the age of our Sun.
If you were a highly advanced space civilization and wanted to rearrange the orbits of the planets in your star system, how would you do that?
Clement and his colleagues suggest using something the size of an asteroid, which could be put on the right track for gravitational exchange with its larger planetary neighbors, gradually pushing them into different orbits.
“That’s what’s really going on,” Clement tells Inverse. “We are very confident that the giant planets in the solar system have moved significantly after their formation.”
“This is already happening.”
Doing the same thing on purpose isn’t entirely science fiction — Clement says there’s already been serious speculation about using gravitational thrusts from another small object to steer an asteroid into a closer orbit. And we already use the same principle to propel spacecraft into distant orbits (or send them out of the solar system).
“It would take an asteroid or asteroids millions of years to move a planet-sized object,” Clement says. “But if you’re a more advanced civilization, you can probably think of timescales of millions of years.”
Technically speaking, a highly advanced space culture could find a way to apply thrust on an entire planet to change its orbit.
Although it is almost impossible for us to imagine how, Clement says that in terms of purely energy needs, any civilization with enough technological intelligence to harness most or all of the energy from its star could achieve this in just over two years ( two lands).
Impossible scenario for humanity
“It stands to reason that if you wanted to create a system that could communicate your existence permanently, you could encode it in the orbital periods of the planets,” Clement says.
After all, planetary arrangements take much longer than radio messages or spaceships.
The cosmic message left encoded in the orbits of the planets could also be one of the easiest cues to detect by species like us (technologically savvy enough to build telescopes, but not smart enough to move entire planets around). One of the easiest properties of an exoplanet to measure is the time it takes to orbit its star.
In other words, the entire solar system may be an ideal extraterrestrial indicator, even though it may seem improbable.
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