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Want To Find Aliens? Search For Dyson Spheres

But what exactly is a Dyson Sphere...

CK Kimball
October 01 2021

It seems so obvious. If you want to harness more energy for a planet, then go to the source! Surround the planet’s star in a megastructure, like a Wonder Ball of space, and harvest its energy. But there’s another purpose for the Dyson sphere, a theoretical concept first proposed by physicist Freeman Dyson in a paper published in 1960. 

Dyson Sphere: Renaud ROCHE 


Because it all comes back to aliens, doesn’t it? The search for extraterrestrial life is a search of curiosity and for cosmic context. For all that we know of how humans came to be and are, it is still bonkers life exists at all. Even crazier, life exists, but humans have yet to pass by another intelligent lifeform in the passing lane of space. Not a SINGLE nearby planet holds life that can carry on a conversation? Hard to believe. 

This is where the Dyson sphere comes in. In Freeman Dyson’s paper, he proposed the hypothetical structures as a solution to the growing energy needs of a hyper-advanced alien civilization to sustain its existence. It's believable considering that’s literally where the human race is headed. It’s no secret that humans are in the wild west of alternative energy sources with each option having its own drawbacks like maintenance for wind turbines and looking like a nerd driving a Toyota Prius in Texas. 

Dyson Sphere with panels: Renaud ROCHE 

The fact is, once it passes through layers of warping atmosphere, a planet only receives a small fraction of the energy produced by its host star or in our case “solar energy”. Earth itself only receives about one-billionth of the Sun’s total energy output. The Dyson Sphere proposes encasing the sun in a swarm of solar panels. More modern versions of this plan involve a hive of satellites to harness that energy directly from the source.

And when it comes to aliens, if humans have thought of it, then it’s more than possible a more advanced extraterrestrial race has achieved it. “That's the thing that my first project tried to answer, how likely is to find a Dyson sphere in the galaxy,” says Ph.D. student at Uppsala University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy Matías Suazo “That’s complicated, but not impossible.”. According to Suazo, in searching for a star that’s radiation output is blocked, emitting mid-infrared wavelength instead of optical radiation, meaning it’d be a much cooler “sun” than expected. “If they have high covering factor, like a lot of solar panels, and they have temperatures of 200 Kelvin, then yes we could detect them,” Suazo said. “But it really takes work to look for candidates.” 

Work because you’re essentially looking for a star in a metal jacket, millions of light-years away. But humans are still 100 to 200 years from even toying with creating their own Dyson Sphere unless an alien civilization is willing to share their notes. Maybe with the launch of the James T. Webb telescope in December (hopefully) and the vast improvements in technology just in the last five years, we might be stealing ideas from aliens sooner than we think. 



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