Proxima, 4 light-years away

The Three-Body Problem

In the novel “The Three-Body Problem,” the Trisolaris system is actually the Proxima Centauri star system located 4.22 light-years away. In the movie “The Wandering Earth,” the ultimate destination of human civilization is also the Proxima Centauri star, but this star system, closest to the sun, seems far from peaceful.

On April 29, 2019, the Parkes Radio Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, focused on Proxima Centauri. Its primary mission was to study the massive flares emitted by this star and its secondary mission was to search for signals of intelligent civilizations near Proxima Centauri. Eventually, this dual-purpose observation led to an unexpected discovery: a signal at a frequency of 982.002 megahertz that clearly originated from Proxima Centauri.

Why Wasn’t this Signal Discovered by Astronomers Earlier?

This is because monitoring Proxima Centauri was not a primary focus of the astronomical community. The mysterious signal detected this time was actually discovered by astronomers collaborating with the Breakthrough Listen project, initiated by the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner in 2015, with a budget of $100 million. The project aimed to scan at least one million stars globally through funding radio telescopes to search for traces of extraterrestrial civilizations within ten years.

Currently, this signal has been named BLC-1, representing “Breakthrough Listen Candidate 1.” It stands out in several aspects: firstly, its frequency of 982 megahertz is a band beyond human technological reach, and it also exhibits a slight Doppler effect, indicating that the signal source is not stationary but in motion.

Specifically, astronomers believe that the signal source is located on a planet near Proxima Centauri. Currently, it is known that Proxima Centauri has at least two planets, Proxima Centauri b and Proxima Centauri c, with Proxima Centauri b being an Earth-like planet located within the star’s habitable zone. Although it may be tidally locked to Proxima Centauri, theoretically, it could maintain suitable temperatures near the terminator zone to evolve civilizations.

Although many view this signal as evidence of extraterrestrial life, there is still scientific divergence. Some argue that the frequency’s proximity to an integer value indicates an Earthly origin, while others point out the unlikelihood of two habitable planets being so close in the vast universe, suggesting that intelligent civilizations in the cosmos could outnumber today’s Earth’s population.

However, some scientists speculate that this signal could be a beacon or relay station for extraterrestrial civilizations, with Proxima Centauri or Proxima Centauri b merely acting as relay stations, a concept reminiscent of “Contact” but with Proxima Centauri replacing Vega. In such a scenario, besides Proxima Centauri, there are likely other star systems serving as nodes in the Milky Way, creating an interstellar communication network spanning the entire galaxy.

The excitement surrounding BLC-1 currently evokes memories of the Wow! signal from 1977, an unresolved and unmatched signal till this day. For decades now, astronomers have been driven by it to search for extraterrestrial life. One thing is certain: the discovery of extraterrestrial life will fundamentally change our understanding of the universe, rendering all past achievements of human civilization pale and insignificant in comparison.

In Conclusion

Whether the signal from Proxima Centauri is a cosmic coincidence or a beacon from a distant civilization, it reminds us of the vastness and near-infinite possibilities of the universe. As part of the myriad of civilizations in the universe, human civilization might just be among the most advanced civilizations in the cosmos.

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