How will aliens contact us? Declassified NSA document reveals top theories

We might not have to visit distant worlds to encounter aliens. They might try to contact us.
Brad Bergan
An artistic impression of UFOs in the sky.gremlin / iStock

Statistically speaking, we're probably not alone in the universe. We have Fermi's Paradox to help us ponder this probability.

Considering the abundance of stars likely to have planets like Earth — where liquid water, life, and a temperate atmosphere host life — alien civilizations may have already arisen, thrived, and become interstellar.

For aliens, visiting other galaxies may be as easy as earthly trips between home and Taco Bell.

If this is the case, we might not have to settle distant worlds to encounter them. They might try to contact us.

It's a scary and exciting thought, but how will aliens contact humanity? A declassified National Security Administration document reveals how some of the world's top scientists think alien intelligence might try to make contact with the human race.

If you want to believe, you're halfway there.

Aliens need to be alive and actively trying to communicate

As the sophistication of human-made technology increases with the advancement of empirical science, we've come to know new ways that an intelligent alien species might extend a high-tech olive branch across the abyssal depths.

The growing consensus among scientists is that contact with alien civilizations could be a feature of our societal evolution, as natural as our accidental discovery of radioactivity or our first steps on the Moon.

It's "no longer something beyond our dreams, but a natural event in the history of mankind that will perhaps occur in the lifetime of many of us," reads the declassified paper on the NSA's website.

In this observation, one is reminded of the Radio Astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell, who once thought, "there must be planets of the right chemistry, dimensions, and temperature to support organic evolution" in our galaxy.

After all, the Milky Way galaxy has an estimated 100 billion stars, at the very least. According to NASA research, the high end of that estimation is something like 400 billion stars.

There are some prerequisites for an alien intelligence to attempt communication. Firstly, they shouldn't have given up trying yet. There's also the possibility that they tried thousands of years ago and are waiting for our reply. Lastly, they need to be alive or at least have been alive at the time of sending a message.

Lasers, megastructures, and radio waves

The best means of interstellar communication might be repetitive laser pulses since they can travel unspeakably vast distances. As of writing, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is testing its laser pulse system, called LaserSETI. (They've come up empty so far.)

Another method involves moving stars (yes, several stars) into an abnormal or recognizably geometric pattern that would instantly signal to any observer that this was not made by nature. "They could construct something that would be visible from a huge distance across the galaxy, or even from another galaxy, that would be obviously artificial," said Astrobiologist David Grinspoon of the Planetary Science Institute in a Live Science report.

Some scientists suspect alien megastructures could function as a colossal message to the universe that life exists out there. The best-known megastructure theory, though, likely turned out to be the dimming of a star and not an interstellar S-O-S. Research from 2019 theorizes that the "blinking" star might be caused by an exomoon crumbling in the foreground.

The old-fashioned radio is most plausible and reliable in pursuing interstellar contact. Radio waves have served as scientists' primary means of listening for alien signals for nearly a century.

Radio waves are incredibly robust, moving through the darkest depths of the galaxy without a hitch. They are reliable, albeit relatively slow. Radio travels at lightspeed; with the nearest star more than four light-years away, a response would take eight years.

We may be first to the party — As the world enters a technological bottleneck, we may soon uncover new revolutionary methods of sending signals across deep space, without the lag that gives many pause about its viability.

Then again, it might be the case that we're first to the party, and alien civilizations won't reply to our messages for another 3,000 years. Aliens may just be fashionably late.

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