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Astronomers search for Dyson Spheres

Posted on Monday, 8 October, 2012 | Comment icon 33 comments

Image credit: NASA/ESA

Three astronomers have been awarded a grant to assist them in locating Dyson Spheres in space.

The concept of a Dyson Sphere was first proposed in 1960 by physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson who suggested that in the event that a sufficiently advanced alien civilization ran out of energy on its home planet then a way to overcome the problem would be to surround the entire parent star with solar panels in a giant spherical structure. Despite sounding like the plot of a science fiction movie, the concept has been taken seriously enough for a group of astronomers to undertake a project to search for one.

Lead by Penn State's Jason Wright, the trio have started a two-year search of several million galaxies using a grant awarded to them by the Templeton Foundation. "Even though there is enough mass in our solar system to construct a solid sphere, such a structure would not be mechanically feasible," said Wright. "It would probably have to be more like a swarm of collectors."

"Last month a trio of astronomers led by Penn State's Jason Wright began a two-year search for Dyson Spheres, a search that will span the Milky Way, along with millions of other galaxies."

  View: Full article |  Source: The Atlantic

  Discuss: View comments (33)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #24 Posted by bison on 10 October, 2012, 0:06
The original idea, I believe, was that people would live on the inside of the 'shell' (more properly a spherical swarm of objects) and that the energy would be incident on this star-ward facing surface area, ready for immediate use. The idea that the Epsilon Aurigae star system is an example of a incomplete, or partial 'shell' of this sort is interesting, but has certain problems. The best current information on this system seems to indicate that the eclipsed body is an F0 star which has gone off the main sequence, swollen to gigantic size, and is near the end of its stel... [More]
Comment icon #25 Posted by Atlantia on 10 October, 2012, 19:56
I was just about to start a very similar reply and thought I better make sure nobody neat me to it. You did Developing the technology to encase a star seems like fun in Star Trek, but in reality any civilisation with that kind of technology and that level of available resources wouldn't need to waste them creating a Dyson Sphere.
Comment icon #26 Posted by Sundew on 12 October, 2012, 13:19
Well, not trying to rain on anyone's parade, just seems so illogical or unlikely given the cost of bring materials from outside of a solar system to build such a structure. Yes when finished you might have unlimited energy, but it would take nearly unlimited energy to build it in the first place!
Comment icon #27 Posted by MidKn13ght on 12 October, 2012, 17:59
I thought there was a movie based on this scenerio... and they did make a dyson type energy absorber to save earth??? Either way dont think we would have to shell the whole sun.... a good size "charging" station i think would be just as affective. Dont think we need all the solar power at once, just in bursts maybe.... intresting though.... but i would think if this alien race had the ability to make such a thing, wouldnt it be easier to locate another planet to inhabit????
Comment icon #28 Posted by bison on 13 October, 2012, 17:05
Human use of energy has grown exponentially over time. We use about 115 times more than our remote hunter/gatherer ancestors, before they discovered fire. It doesn't seem likely that even someone from the Renaissance, fresh with the idea of human progress, could have believed that people, 600 years hence, would use 12 times as much energy as they did; what use they could possibly make of it, or how they could afford it. Nevertheless, we manage to do so, and even to foresee the need for more energy, and the possibility of producing it. It seems risky to try to place limits on what may be p... [More]
Comment icon #29 Posted by Ryegrog on 13 October, 2012, 20:47
I saw something like this on an episode of Star Trek TNG where the Enterprise found a sun with a Dyson Sphere and Scotty (James Doohan) crashed on it.
Comment icon #30 Posted by Parsec on 14 October, 2012, 0:27
Bison, thank you for your explaination So, they should move from their planet and live around their star, in order to have energy. This looks every minute more impracticable and inefficient to me. Where did you get those numbers? Honestly I thought were higher. Are they expressed in Joule or which unit of measurement? To me it's not completely correct to confront pre-electricity civilizations and us in terms of energy consumption. You say that It seems risky to try to place limits on what may be possible in the future, but maybe it's more risky to not place a limit on where we ca... [More]
Comment icon #31 Posted by DieChecker on 14 October, 2012, 5:49
A Dyson Sphere would be fantastic if a civilization had gravity manipulation, and/or energy to matter conversion. If a society could produce raw materials directly from energy, and if they had gravity control, they could build a dyson sphere and live on the inside and have room for billions of trillions of people. And they would still need more energy....
Comment icon #32 Posted by bison on 14 October, 2012, 15:16
I got the numbers from the website linked below. They are rendered into Kilocalories, so that the heat production of human and animal metabolism and of simple fires can be compared to modern forms of energy, like electricity. In common with life in general, humans have expanded their territory, numbers and energy sources, over time. If we can learn to do this in an environmentally sustainable manner, I see no reason why this process should not continue.
Comment icon #33 Posted by Mr Right Wing on 14 October, 2012, 15:23
I think this is pointless. I expect any Dysons Spheres to have true stealth capability.

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