Please help keep this Site Going

Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet


Allergy season starts earlier in New Hampshire as climate changes

Spring is in full swing, but many in New Hampshire have seen their allergies starting earlier.Weather and climate trends are worsening allergy season.”We are seeing global trends with allergy seasons getting longer because we think of global warming as a…

Can we still handle the truth? Journalism, ‘alternative facts’ and the rise of AI | Lenore Taylor

We all have moments in life when we know something big is happening, that we are stepping into a new and consequential experience, and our mind takes a mental Polaroid, an intensely clear snapshot of what that moment looks like…

Can aliens around nearby stars detect us?

Aliens: A person on a dark hill above a bright town shines a flashlight at the Milky Way.
Can aliens detect radio signals from our cell towers? A new study said that it would currently be difficult. But in the future, however, it will be much easier with the expansion of powerful broadband systems. Image via Dino Reichmuth/ Unsplash.

Help! EarthSky needs your support to continue. Our yearly crowd-funding campaign is going on now. Donate here.

We’re phoning ET from home

In the 1982 movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, an alien stranded on Earth had to “phone home” for his peers to come pick him up. In today’s world, however, we’re the ones phoning the aliens everyday, without even knowing it. When we use our cell phones, they ping off a network of cell phone towers worldwide, leaking radio signals into space. On May 2, 2023, the SETI Institute announced a new study that looked at how likely it would be for a nearby advanced civilization to detect those signals. It found that, at the moment, we’re still somewhat difficult to detect. But it also found that our signal will grow substantially in the coming years.

The new study looked at crowd-sourced data to simulate radio leakage from cell phone towers around the world. They took the viewpoint of an alien civilization nearby to Earth, such as Barnard’s Star, which is six light-years away.

Ramiro Saide of the University of Mauritius was the lead author of the study. The peer-reviewed journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society published the paper on February 6, 2023.

Young Black man wearing SETI t-shirt smiles and gestures to radio telescopes in the background.
Ramiro Saide of the University of Mauritius led the study. In this photo, he stands by the Allen Telescope Array in Hat Creek, California. Saide is from Maputo, Mozambique. He told EarthSky: “As far as I know, I am the first Mozambican working on SETI.” Image via SETI/ Ramiro Saide.

Measuring our signal to the aliens

Saide and his team made models of the radio leakage from mobile communication towers located around the globe. Specifically, the team noted the change in signals as Earth spins and the towers rise and set from the view of a specific star. They determined the dynamic power spectrum of Earth was around 4 gigawatts (GW). That’s summed over all cellular frequency bands. It’s similar to the power of 400 million LED light bulbs.

The team said that unless the alien civilization is much more advanced than ours, it would be difficult to detect the signals. However, the press release said:

… the detectability of our mobile systems will increase substantially as we move to much more powerful broadband systems.

More phone usage around the world

Overall, the increased use of cell phones around the world, such as in Africa, makes up for the decrease in powerful TV transmissions. Mike Garrett of the University of Manchester, another member of the study, said:

I’ve heard many colleagues suggest that the Earth has become increasingly radio quiet in recent years, a claim that I always contested. Although it’s true we have fewer powerful TV and radio transmitters today, the proliferation of mobile communication systems around the world is profound. While each system represents relatively low radio powers individually, the integrated spectrum of billions of these devices is substantial.

A look at the map below shows the location of cell phone towers located around the globe. Notably, Africa is bypassing the landline stage of development and moving into the digital age with cell phones.

Map of the world with red dots nearly covering every continent with some gaps around the poles and Sahara Desert.
The red dots represent the geographic distribution of Earth’s mobile communication towers. The map contains more than 30 million individual data points. Most of them overlap at this resolution. Image via MNRAS/ Ramiro Saide.

We’re talking, but are aliens listening?

Nalini Heeralall-Issur, of the University of Mauritius, also participated in the study. Heeralall-Issur said:

Every day we learn more about the characteristics of exoplanets via space missions like Kepler and TESS, with further insights from the JWST. I believe that there’s every chance advanced civilizations are out there, and some may be capable of observing the human-made radio leakage coming from planet Earth.

The team plans to expand their research to include radars, new digital broadcast systems, Wi-Fi networks, the swarm of satellite constellations entering low-Earth orbit and more. Garrett said:

Current estimates suggest we will have more than 100,000 satellites in low Earth orbit and beyond before the end of the decade. The Earth is already anomalously bright in the radio part of the spectrum. If the trend continues, we could become readily detectable by any advanced civilization with the right technology.

Bottom line: A new study looked at whether aliens around nearby stars could detect the radio signals from Earth’s cell phone towers.

Source: Simulation of the Earth’s radio leakage from mobile towers as seen from selected nearby stellar systems


Lake or mistake? The row over water firms, drought and Abingdon’s new super-reservoir

It will be like a giant flan case full of water dumped on a marsh, says Julie Mabberley. She is discussing the plan to put a 150bn-litre reservoir, spanning almost two miles across, to the south-west of Abingdon in Oxfordshire….

Investing in public transport could give economy £50bn annual boost, says TUC

Ministers have been urged to ramp up spending on public transport in England and Wales to tackle the climate emergency, and to unlock a £50bn a year boost to the economy, in a report by the Trades Union Congress (TUC)….

Businesses in north of England ask ministers for help to hit net zero

Business leaders in the north of England have written to the prime minister, chancellor and energy secretary asking for help to reach net zero. Big names including Drax, Siemens, Peel, Manchester airport, the CBI and all 11 local enterprise partnerships…

Eco-Nuisance: Brits Set Roadblocks On Fire To Protest Low-Traffic Neighborhoods

Britons across the country have been setting roadblocks on fire in a demonstration against the introduction of low-traffic neighborhoods. The scheme was designed to encourage people to cycle and walk instead of driving in typically residential streets. They were introduced…

Rishi Sunak grilled by senior MPs at Commons liaison committee – UK politics live

Filters BETA Sarah Champion (Lab), moves onto international development spending. She asks why no budget is ring fenced by the Treasury to support refugees in the UK, adding: “Why is it that you think it’s fine to raid the overseas…

Climate change: Can we really take CO2 back out the air? – BBC

Tackling climate change could require sucking carbon back out of the atmosphere, according to the IPCC. Jocelyn Timperley looks at how these ‘negative emissions’ might work. Humanity is on thin ice. Only rapid reductions in fossil fuel use, increased efficiency…

Vermont teens call on lawmakers to act on climate change and pass the Affordable Heat Act – VTDigger

Jenna Hirschman, an Essex High School junior and Youth Lobby activist, speaks in support of statewide climate legislation at the Statehouse in Montpelier on Friday, March 17, 2023. Photo by Natalie Williams/VTDigger As legislators scrambled to meet crossover deadlines for…

Please help keep this Site Going