Cepheid Variable Star.  Credit:  Hubble Space Telescope

Communicating Via the Cepheid Galactic Internet

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015


If an alien species wanted to communicate with Earthlings, or any other civilization that might be out there, how might they do it? Some have proposed microwaves, neutrinos or lasers, or even moving stars around into patterns. But why wouldn’t aliens just use the internet? The Cepheid Galactic Internet, that is. A group of scientists has proposed that a sufficiently advanced civilization could use Cepheid variable stars as beacons to transmit information throughout the galaxy and beyond. These stars can be seen from long distances and, the scientists say, any technologically advanced civilization would likely observe Cepheid variables as distance markers. The group of physicists and astronomers from Hawaii and California propose that Cepheids and any other regular variable stars should be searched for signs of phase modulation and patterns which could be indicative of intentional signaling.

In their paper, the group of scientists proposes that advanced civilizations hoping to communicate would want to use a form of communication with a high data rate, just as everyone on Earth would prefer broadband for their internet. Microwaves and lasers have problems with resolution and noise, while photons or neutrinos would take an enormous amount of power to send messages long distances. And moving stars around? Well, that sounds pretty difficult if not labor intensive. So how about something akin to a T1 line that is already established? All that would need to be done is to “tickle” the star, as the scientists call it, or tweak the Cepheid, to send a message. The researchers write, “Recently, some authors have driven home the point that it is far more energetically practical for transmitting large amounts of data to place long lasting artifacts in stellar systems to which the ETI (extra terrestrial intelligence) may wish communicate information (their history for example) as intelligent life matures and becomes capable of decoding this ‘Rosetta stone.’”

By “tickling” the star, with the delivery of a relatively small amount of energy via neutrinos or other forms of power pulses at the right time could trigger the Cepheid to a specific variability, and a message could be encoded within that variability.

The researchers admit the civilization attempting this would have to be highly advanced. But if some civilization has in fact created a message and sent it via the Cepheid Galactic Internet, all we have do to is open our inbox.

Who knows, they could be on to something. They’ve even discussed their proposal with Freeman Dyson. “It may be a long shot,” they write, “but should it be correct, the payoff would be immeasurable for humanity. The beauty of this suggestion seems to be simply that the data already exists, and we need only look at the data in a new way.”

Sources: arXiv, On Orbit

31 Responses

  1. Ayti says:

    Where’s my foil hat?

  2. Jon says:

    I love it! it seems very practical, as the infrastructure is already in place! And it assumes that aliens have been sending us messages all this time under our noses!

    As you can tell, this makes me very excited. I need some alone time now… 😉

  3. Molecular says:

    Not that any constellation has been arranged in a particular order, but, could it be that the very brightness of the stars in these, represent something? This could be a similar form of a marker, or, communication of something pertinent.

  4. Hunnter says:

    Well, Molecular, i doubt it really since almost every constellation isn’t lined up, when you moved away from Earth that is.
    But it is really strange.

    Anyway, it does sound like an interesting idea.
    So when can we expect a space agency to send a satellite near the sun and tickle it.
    Lets hope it doesn’t go mad and EXPLODE in rage…

    Another thing that could be done by any advanced civilizations would be to cover the whole star with a large sphere, which is then basically turned into a massive LCD, but across every possible spectrum.
    Once these things are turned on, they could probably be forgotten about (outside of possible maintenance, but they will surely have nanotech if they could build a sun-sphere)
    This could probably give them the power of several different frequencies for a much higher bandwidth.

    Although, in saying that, it isn’t exactly like it will be used to VOIP or watch the latest Youtube videos.
    Any aliens watching us would be laughing at our puny internet and people trying to split it into a tier-system.

  5. RL says:

    Hmmm. A very interesting idea. I wonder if some enterprising astronomer could use the existing data to look for modulations…

  6. LLDIAZ says:

    Lets say you’ve taken 100,000 years to reach the technological stage in which you live in. Then comes along this “just out of the jungle species” and says we want your technology? Would you even acknowlegde them?. I dont think so!!
    Furthermore if we take our own geo-political scene as our guide we would see that countries with more to offer often dont even open channels of communication with others with less. They dont see any benefit in doing so. Why expose yourself to a potential enemy, the risk/reward ratio is to one sided…

  7. Eric Near Buffalo says:

    Any aliens with any idea of our existence probably wouldn’t bother trying to communicate based on how we treat eachother.

  8. Nasikabatrachus says:

    With our luck, we’ll open it up and it will just be alien spam.

  9. Eric Near Buffalo says:

    I’m not trying to take on an activist mentality, but just think about it. We have global pissing matches with people because of race, religion and social status.

    Why should anyone or anything try to contact us? We’d either want to attack it because it was different or posed an imminent threat just because it reached out or run and hide because we were too feeble to understand it’s message. We aren’t very far from the early homo-sapiens, people. We still have our animalistic moments. Not very trustworthy or intelligent when you think about it.

    We are a smart species, don’t get me wrong. But when people my age (26) or of other age groups kill eachother and beat eachother up for “offenses” equal to looking at them with a face showing something other than blank emotion or something as trivial as spoken words against or different from their religion, it doesn’t really act as a beacon for intelligent life. It’s more like “We’ve found insecure multi-celled organisms. Hmm, better keep going.”

  10. Sili says:

    By “tickling” the star, with the delivery of a relatively small amount of energy via neutrinos or other forms of power pulses at the right time could trigger the Cepheid to a specific variability, and a message could be encoded within that variability.

    Would these be the same neutrinos that we can barely detect at the moment even when we do our damnedest to make intensive ‘beams’ of them? The selfsame neutrinos of which we detected a grand total of TWENTY-FOUR (counting antis two) when we observed a bloody SUPERNOVA?

    Yush … piece of cake.

  11. DrNecropolis says:

    and maybe cepheid’s aren’t even stars at all. Maybe they’re just giant Eat At Joe’s signs. I’m sure any civilization clever enough to use a star as a telegraph has some other way of communicating long distance, my guess is they’re just more patient

  12. John C Hobbs says:

    Fun idea. After all, dams are built by earthquakes, beavers and men. Why shouldn’t a naturally occuring phenomenon seed the idea? What about a graded set of primers? As for the melancholiacs, give it a rest!

  13. Aodhhan says:

    Poor use of grant money for sure.

    Lets take a bunch of references (some of our own previous work…so we get a bit more noticed), use some common parts from each, interject something else for good measure, smoke some wild Hawaiian plants, come up with some silly idea from it all and then get away with it by claiming, “…a sufficiently advanced civilzation can do this!”

    Why not go for broke in the fact they would be able to change the color along with it? I mean really… if they were so advanced.

    If you would like to drop them a line. Ask them if they lost some sort of bet:

    John Learned: jgl@phys.hawaii.edu
    R-P. Kudritzki: kud@ifa.hawaii.edu
    Sandip Pakvasa: pakvasa@phys.hawaii.edu
    A. Zee: zee@kitp.ucsb.edu

  14. Tyler Durden says:

    @ idiot above:

    Science is never a waste of time.

    It may not pay off with the results you were hoping for, but that in itself is a reward. You’ve conclusively proved one more way not to find alien intelligences.

    When Thomas Edison was asked whether he got frustrated when he failed to produce a working lightbulb over 100 times, he said:

    “I didn’t fail. I found 100 ways how I could go about not making a lightbulb.”

  15. Chuck Lam says:

    I can’t help wonder just what these physicists and astronomers, who came up with this ludicrous idea of modulating Cepheids for communication purposes, are smoking. These guys must be frustrated unemployed ‘Star Trek’ writers. What a waste of tax dollars.

  16. igrnemo says:

    Great idea!
    Trying to download the paper from arxiv, but it is damaged according to Acrobat Reader (v. 8:)

  17. Aodhhan says:

    Okay Tyler,

    Eat 100 razors. May not get the results you are looking for, but you’ll learn whether or not your body can take it. If it can, then we can do more research to figure out what further use we get from it. Never know, it may be the cure for cancer!

    Huge difference between this and inventing something within your grasp and technology.

    When it comes to taxpayer money, and public perception… considerations must be made on how it is spent.

    Yes, it is possible to waste time and money on science. If every scientist conducted research without thought to proper use of resources, we quickly will find ourselves without funding and support.


  18. LEON says:

    sounds great
    but I really doubt can it be put into practice.

  19. Chuck Lam says:

    To Jon Hanford: I suspect contact with an alien intelligence will likely never happen. Why you ask? Because any form of deliberately modulated rf energy diminishes inversely with distance. A multi-million-watt signal, directed or not, is reduced to essentially nothing after a light year or two of travel. Attempting to detect a multi-million-watt signal at cosmic distances against a natural background of cosmic static just isn’t going to happen. I have said before, trying to detect an alien signal will be similar to looking for a burning candle on the surface of our sun. The SETI group and others are simply wasting their time and money listening for an alien signal.

  20. Patrick says:

    Yeah… we could also communicate by modulating a pulsar or maybe by using supernovas to encode morse code… bla blah

    Totally agree with Chuck.

    There should be better peer review to avoid funding wacky research.

  21. NoAstronomer says:

    LOL WUT!?

    This has to be the daftest idea I’ve seen this year. I agree with Chuck, some ideas are just too dumb – even for Star Trek.

  22. Jon Hanford says:

    Two recent papers posted at the arXiv site expound on the possibility of using neutrinos for communication between stars. “SETI and muon collider” (arXiv:0803.0409v1) & ” Galactic Neutrino Communication” (arXiv:0805.2429v2). It seems theorists are exploring many possible modalities with regard to interstellar communication(including quantum teleportation). Some very intriguing possibilites seem to exist and should be explored. The old ’21cm watering hole’ concept has certainly been expanded on.

  23. Jon Hanford says:

    To Chuck Lam, modulation of Cepheid (or other suitable variable stars), seems to be a logical, easily discerned means of interstellar communication. Deep databases on the these stars exist, and possibly a re-examination of this archival data may reveal some interesting info (or not, given the short period of time these observations cover). Anyway, I believe this type of interstellar communication may prove viable in the near or distant future. If no dedicated search is undertaken, certainly Chuck’s prognostication of nondetection will be born out .

  24. Frank Glover says:

    Eric, just because we might detect it, doesn’t mean it’s meant *specifically* for us. (And just because humanity may not be ‘Miss Congeaniality’ of the galaxy,doesn’t mean someone still might not find us interesting. Even we look at bacteria. They would be aliens, after all, and even on this world, there’s no accounting for taste.)

    Still, unless there’s something very subtle in there, it seems to me that modulating a star’s output would mean INSANELY slow bit rates that would make extremely low frequency submarine communications look like broadband…

  25. Chuck Lam says:

    To: Jon Hanford, I agree if it were possible to modulate a Cephied or other star that it might make it an effective means of cosmic communication. The challenge I see is mustering up enough intelligence produced energy to effect what is needed to perform the mind-bending task of star modulation. My visceral feel is this is not a sensible approach to solving the problem of cosmic communication. Overcoming the speed limit of light and, of course, time is the real challenge for cosmic communication.

  26. Brad says:

    Chuck- nail on the head mate. Why oh why try and muster enough juice to modulate a star? Why not just park your transmitter in its vicinity? Or in the vicinity of some other very interesting astronomical object which shouts “look at me” across large portions of the visible universe.

  27. Eric Near Buffalo says:

    Frank Glover:
    I get all that. No problem at all.

    Personally, I want to know if there are aliens out there. Whether or not they are broadcasting to us or if we just so happen to travel into the vicinity of their broadcast, it doesn’t matter to me. It would be the biggest discovery in our history.

    Should we receive a signal, what should we do? Should we attempt to answer? I know the signal would be analyzed to the fullest degree to decipher it’s meaning and origin. For all we know, it could be a cry for help as some far away civilization is under attack from years and years ago. Who knows, maybe it won’t be an old message. They could have technology that would allow them to send a message in a fraction of time compared to what we could do.

    I hope we can find out, undoubtedly, one way or another, whether or not we are truly alone. I hope it’s in my lifetime.

  28. Jeremiah and Anthony says:


    We read your page and were not real impressed considering you did not consider ALL the evidence! You simply dismissed out of hand all the Ancient Prophecies..How about those Sumerians..no answer for the cuniform eh or all the many predictions all over this planet that date back many thousands of years ago….all the evidence taken together makes a strong case for Earth Changes, even if you feel that PLanet X will not cause them..So Prepare anyway!!! The Conspiracy is in the theory, and there are a lot of those floating around…The best test will be time..only a few years now…

    Peac e and Love
    Jeremiah , Anthony and Sherri

  29. Rob says:

    Some comments here say ‘why would they contact us, look how we treat each other’. In order to get that kind of information, they would have to have came here; so it is not plausible assume that they would make that assessment.

    The idea of an interstellar WWW is an idea worth exploring. If they are transversing the stars or their galactic neighborhood, they would need a way to communicate with each other over the vastness of space.

    For those demanding a definite answer to ‘Are we alone’, it can not be answered right now. Will it? most definitely so. I, for one, am positive that there are others out there. I think of every star as a possibility for intelligent life or just some form of life. There are more stars in the universe then there are grains of sand on every beach on Earth. So the chances are high. Finding them is the trick.

    Space is vast, unimaginably large, one could say infinite. transversing those distances is not at all an easy task.

    As for Jeremiah , Anthony and Sherri and their 2012 nonsense, there is little to no truth in man made tales or prophecies. Ancient prophecies are just that, old tales that add up to nothing.

    Reason and logic will always trump fairy tales.

  30. PsychicSEO says:

    I wrote about an interstellar web as well – fascinating topic!

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