/ megastructures

Your Name Here

Hello! I’m Piper and I’m currently a summer intern at the Berkeley SETI Research Center with Breakthrough Listen. My project for the summer is to look for signs of artificial structures or objects orbiting stars as part of our collaboration with scientists from the TESS mission.

After a dive into the literature, I read a paper by Emily Sandford and David Kipping outlining their work on modeling structures transiting in front of stars. I downloaded their code, EightBitTransit, and then it struck me. What would my name look like if it transited in front of a star? What would the names of the other interns look like?


Now, I recognize that it is highly unlikely that extraterrestrial intelligence would a) use the same lettering system as a fraction of Earth and b) choose to write one of this year’s intern’s names as a megastructure around their host star, but as one of the other interns has mentioned, the resulting light curves would make pretty cool signatures. Additionally, it was a step in the right direction towards modeling more plausible structures:

The Black Box:
The Destroyed Planet:
The Prime Number Signaling:

What’s next? Well, some possible ETI megastructures create much clearer light curves than others as displayed above. So, I’ll be working with the Berkeley SETI Research Center and TESS to sort through TESS data to find the limits of possible existing megastructures within TESS’s observed sources. We hope to use machine learning to sift through data and from this we hope to find an upper limit to the hypothetical presence of ETI megastructures within the data.

Thanks to Sandford and Kipping for making the code that generated these lightcurves publicly available.

Main image credit: Kepler 11 (NASA / Tim Pyle) modified by Steve Croft