Nick Pope used to work for the British government in the Ministry of Defense. His specialty? UFO sightings. And he’s not afraid to make bold predictions about the possibility of establishing contact with extraterrestrial beings. In fact, with the technology about to be employed by a massive radio telescope array in Australia, Pope thinks that there could be contact with aliens within the next dozen years.
“I will be controversial and give you an exact year of when I believe first confirmation of contact will be made – and that is 2024,” Pope told the Daily Express, “the year in which if everything goes according to plan the Square Kilometre Array will be fully operational.”
Construction of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is scheduled to begin in 2016. By the time it goes on line, it is expected to consist of a network of computer-linked telescopes encompassing 1,900 square miles in the Australian outback. The array will be 50 times more sensitive and have the ability to scan the skies 10,000 faster than any other telescope in existence.
A spokesperson for SKA stated: “It will give astronomers insight into the formation and evolution of the first stars and galaxies after the Big Bang, the role of cosmic magnetism, the nature of gravity and possibly even life beyond.”
Pope, who investigated UFO sightings for 21 years, says the array provides “new and exciting possibilities.”
Pope says,“If there is a civilisation within 100 lightyears this telescope could find it. We are now beginning to have the technology — whether it’s the SKA or maybe other telescopes — that are being developed that will allow these possibilities. We are searching all the time for a shadow earth.”
As if on cue, the January 2013 edition of Astronomy & Astrophysics contains a study of the nearest Sol-like star, Tau Ceti, not only has retinue of planets but an Earth-like world orbiting within its habitable zone. So…
Still, even if a signal were detected within an array like the SKA, it must be remembered that the radio transmission being received was transmitted years ago. In fact, the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.24 light years from Earth. The nearest sun-like star, the aforementioned Tau Ceti, is slightly less than 12 light years away. If extraterrestrial life existed on any worlds that might revolve around those two suns and said life attained intelligence and the ability to transmit radio signals, it would take over 4 and less than 12 years, respectively, for such signals to reach the Earth.
And yet Pope’s prediction, though bold, could become a reality. According to the famous Drake Equation, the calculation of the possible number of civilizations that had risen with the Milky Way was between 1,000 and 100 million. Of those many would most likely develop the ability to transmit and receive radio signals. Over the years, different values and additional factors have resulted in values from one (humans on planet Earth) and astronomical numbers of inhabited worlds.
But always at play in these types of calculations is Fermi’s paradox: Given the overwhelming mathematical likelihood that intelligent life exists on other worlds besides Earth, there still is no empirical evidence that any such alien civilization exists.
But like Drake, who founded SETI (the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence), Pope sees the possibilities of making contact via radio telescope. But by 2024? And in such a short time after the radio telescope array goes operational? That might be expecting a bit too much too soon.
But Pope and the builders of SKA aren’t alone in believing that aliens just might be reaching out to us as we reach out to them — or that humans might actually contact aliens relatively soon. Russian scientist Andrei Finkelstein made headlines when he predicted last year that contact would be made with extraterrestrials within two decades and most likely via a radio telescope array like that operated by SETI. His prediction fell right in line with that of Seth Shostak, senior astronomer with SETI, who wrote a paper in 2006 that mankind would come into contact with aliens within 25 years.
Pope’s prediction is a bit more specific.
According to a 2012 study conducted by the University of Chicago, nearly 60 percent of those surveyed believed in the existence of extraterrestrial life.