Messier 13, The great Hercules Cluster, may well harbor the perfect conditions for intelligent life.
-January 7th 2016 – Michelle Joy Gallagher
When you think of intelligent extra terrestrial life, how do you picture the planets it might inhabit? Do you picture them in a solar system like ours? On a lonely planet surrounded by neighbors such as failed stars, superheated rocky wastelands and Icy moons?
Rosanne DiStefano of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics posits an alternative. Along with her colleague Alak Ray of the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research, Mumbai, DiStefano suggests that the first signs of intelligent extra terrestrial life may come from Globular Clusters. At a press conference Wednesday, they announced:”A globular cluster might be the first place in which intelligent life is identified in our galaxy.”
Globular Clusters are spherical, densely packed clusters of stars which on average boast 150 stars in only a 100 light year span. The outer reaches of the Milky Way are littered with 150 known Globular Clusters. The stars in these clusters are usually older and contain less of the heavy elements needed to create planets. Only one planet has ever been detected in a Globular Cluster. Critics argue that the lack of heavy elements leave the Clusters as unlikely regions to contain life. They also argue that due to the density of stars in these regions, any planet that does happen to form may be in danger of encounter from a neighboring star. DiStefano and Ray say it is “not unreasonable” to expect to find more planets upon further observation.
Their theory is built upon the fact that the stars in the clusters are extremely stable, meaning they outlast newer stars born with heavier elements. The age of the stars themselves are also important, as any planet formed around them has had ample, relatively stable time to develop intelligent life. They argue that the densely packed characteristics of Globular Clusters are actually a plus aiding things like exploration, communication and interplanetary travel.
“We call it the ‘globular cluster opportunity,'” says DiStefano. “Sending a broadcast between the stars wouldn’t take any longer than a letter from the U.S. to Europe in the 18th century. Interstellar travel would take less time too. The Voyager probes are 100 billion miles from Earth, or one-tenth as far as it would take to reach the closest star if we lived in a globular cluster. That means sending an interstellar probe is something a civilization at our technological level could do in a globular cluster”
The team is not the first to entertain the idea.
In 1974, the Arecibo Radio Telescope was used for the first time to purposefully broadcast a message from Earth to Space. Astronomer Frank Drake (Author of the famous Drake Equation to calculate possibility of extra terrestrial life) Aimed it at the great Hercules Cluster (Messier 13, pictured above)
-Via Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
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