Teenager Helps Scientists Look For Signs Of Alien Life

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David Lipman is a teenager from California that ended up looking for signals of artificial activity with scientists. It all started when was just a high school junior. He observed the light patterns of Tabby’s Star and noticed that sometimes the light appeared dimmer.

There were a lot of theories explaining this, including the theory of astronomer Jason Wright, Ph.D., from Penn State’s Department of Astronomy, who believed that there might be an alien megastructure that takes the star’s light.

“When I first heard about Tabby’s Star and the potential megastructure around it, it was pretty fascinating,” Lipman explained. “It sounded like something out of a sci-fi movie.”

Taking part in the research

Lipman became more involved and he took a summer internship at the Berkeley SETI Research Center. He came up with an algorithm that could look through data sent by telescopes and select images that could indicate artificial activity.

“I was already sort of involved with SETI building my algorithm, so I thought maybe applying it to Tabby’s Star would be a very useful application, and it was a hot topic at the time,” Lipman added. “After going through the spectra, we flagged a few candidates, all of which appeared to be atmospheric airglow — so sadly, no alien signals.”

Lipman is now a freshman at Princeton, and his research continues, despite the fact that no aliens were discovered until now. It appears that his work proved to be very helpful for the scientific community. “His thorough analysis of this one object will form the groundwork for the analysis of the hundreds of other targets that we’ve observed as part of the Breakthrough Listen program at APF,” writes Steve Croft, a scientist at Berkeley-SETI.