Interstellar laser transmission and Sirius

I read a very interesting article in the New Scientist this week; it was an interview with Geoff Marcy (pictured), partly responsible for discovering many of the exoplanets we now know about. In the article, Dr Marcy explains that he's switching from exoplanet discovery (planets orbiting other stars) to SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. He feels that he's done what he wanted to do with the exoplanet work and wants to 'roll the dice' and take on a long-shot SETI subject.

Dr Marcy believes that if alien civilizations do exist, some must be sufficiently advanced to be communicating between stars. To do this, they would logically use lasers, since lasers enable tight, focussed, information-rich communication. We on Earth have been sending out lasers and radio waves into space for a while now and Dr Marcy suspects that alien civilizations may target us as a result. As he states in the interview: 'maybe they are studying us with their own lasers, for whatever reason, and we should be looking for that. And that's what I plan to do.'

The reason I'm mentioning this is that, based on the evidence I uncovered in my book 'The Golden Web', such an event may have already happened.

The evidence concerns the star Sirius. In ‘Exploring Ancient Skies’ by David H. Kelley and E. F. Milone, the authors discuss at length a strange historical oddity. Several writers in the centuries before Christ reported that Sirius was red in colour. In 150 AD, the astronomer Ptolemy described Sirius as ‘The star in the mouth, the brightest, which is called ‘the Dog’ and is reddish”. The poet Aratus also reported seeing the star as red. Seneca, too, had described Sirius as being of a deeper red colour than Mars, the red planet. In fact, Homer, Hesiod, Aratus, Virgil, Horace, Seneca. Pliny, Geminus, Ptolemy, Theon and Ceciro all refer to the star being red.

These observations weren’t confined to the Mediterranean islands. A Babylonian observer in 800 BC to 700 BC described the star as ‘shining like copper’. In fact, the reports of Sirius’s change of colour extended beyond Europe and Asia. The Polynesians and the North American Pawnee both described Sirius as red.

This strange anomaly has become known as the Sirius ‘Red Controversy’. The current orthodox view is that the ancient observers were mistaken in their observations, on the simple grounds that a star’s colour can’t flip between red and white in the space of a few thousand years. As you know, stars rarely change colour. They evolve in clearly defined ways and their colour, a result of the temperature on their surface, only changes over millions of years. Astronomers have examined Sirius A and B in detail. They know that it is scientifically impossible for either of those stars to have been red three thousand years ago.

It seems very unlikely though that all those ancient observers were foolish enough to observe the wrong star. Sirius is a major star, one of the brightest in the sky, and highly unlikely to be mistaken for something else. Why did these educated men report an impossibility? To help solve this mystery, it’s worth examining the ancient reports in more detail. For example, the reports say that the star was red only some of the time. In the astrological treatise of Sima Qian, there is the following phrase:

“When the Wolf changes colour, there will be piracy and theft.”

The Wolf is the Chinese name for Sirius. Also, the Theban astrologer Hephaestion, interpreting Egyptian beliefs, stated:

“If Sirius rises bright and white and its appearance shines through, then the Nile will rise high and there will be abundance, but if it rises fiery and reddish there will be war.”

It seems as if Sirius turned red and ‘fiery’ only at certain times. In addition, when it did, several cultures on Earth felt it foreboded calamity. This view of Sirius is encapsulated in its very name. The word ‘Sirius’ is Greek and means ‘scorching’ or ‘searing’.

This hellish image of Sirius was not just confined to its name. The ancient Greeks feared the star particularly at the end of summer. At that time, known as the ‘dog days’ of summer, they suspected that it could ‘make plants wilt, men weaken and women become aroused’. They believed that it produced emanations that caused these effects. People suffering its effects were said to be astroboletos or 'star-struck', since ‘astro’ means ‘star’ and ‘bolus’ means ‘ball’. Sirius’s influence was so strong, parts of the Greek world tried to appease it with sacrifices. The inhabitants of the island of Ceos in the Aegean Sea would offer sacrifices to Sirius and Zeus to bring cooling breezes, and would await the reappearance of the star in summer. If it rose clear, it would portend good fortune; if it rose fiery and red, it foretold disease. Coins retrieved from the island from the third century BC feature dogs or stars with emanating rays, highlighting the star’s importance.

The significance of Sirius as a dangerous, fiery summer star was also noted by the ancient Egyptians. They had a goddess associated with the star called Sothis, a goddess regarded by several Egyptian texts as synonymous with Isis, the wife of Osiris. Sothis was seen as a fearful and destructive goddess, who could bring epidemics during the summer. She was also associated with dogs, the animal associated with that star by cultures all around the Northern Hemisphere. The Egyptians felt that the negative effects of Sothis could be appeased, or controlled. One of their ancient mythical figures carried out such a task. He was called Iachen.

Iachen was said to be an Egyptian magician who 'tamed' the power of Sirius and transformed it into a life giving power. When he died he became the centre of a cult that kept a flame burning on his altar. When Sirius rose, the priests of Iachen entered the streets with torches lit from the altar, in order to channel the power of Sirius and heal any diseases unleashed by it. Iachen was known in Minoan Crete as I-wa-ko, who became Iakchos, the hero of ‘the light-bearing star of the nocturnal mysteries’.

It therefore seems that Sirius was a normal, bright white star most of the time but at a certain point in the year, for a brief period in late Summer, it became red and fiery. For that short period, it seemed to be ‘active’, sending out a fiery light to Earth. Not only that, but that fiery star, the dog star, was strongly associated with epidemics.

What was happening during that millennium? Why did a white star suddenly become ‘fiery red’ at a particular time of the year and allegedly cause epidemics to the ancient civilizations of Earth?

One way to answer this is to think about the appearance of a star if it was sending us a laser signal. A laser is usually depicted or shown as a thin, parallel beam of a single colour of intense light. That image though is how the beam looks when we look at it from the side as it passes through foggy air. The light that we see is the laser’s photons bouncing off particles in the air and hitting our eyes. If a star sends a signal to us on Earth, we’d be in the path of that beam. As a result, we’d see a bright, coloured dot, as if someone pointed a pencil laser at our eyes.

In addition, if the laser was coming from another star and travelling through earth’s atmosphere, there would be a lot of dispersion. As a result, to someone on the ground, the incoming laser signal would look more like a radial, flickering fire; it would be bright at its centre and then flare out to nothing as the atmosphere distorted and dissipated its photons of light. This dispersion would probably make the laser beam look larger that the star it was coming from. The upshot of all this would be that to observers on the ground, the star would appear to change from its normal, steady colour to a flickering, fiery different colour, the colour of the laser beam light.

There is a further element to consider. As J. Craig Venter mentioned in relation to the recent 100 year starship project, one practical and realistic way to transmit life between the stars would be to send DNA fragments. If we combine that idea with the laser beam approach, transmitting DNA between the stars by surrounding it with laser light to direct, accelerate and possibly protect it, we have an effective way to seed life in another star system.

The evidence seems to indicate that such a transmission did reach us in the millennium before Christ. Our planet (or at least the inner, rocky planetary region around our star) was targeted by a powerful laser originating from a star six light-years away. That red laser-beam contained a stream of DNA/RNA material, possibly in virus form, thus explaining the ‘searing’ star’s epidemics.

It's a weird idea, but consistent and logical.

I've let Dr Marcy know. It would be very frustrating to search in vain for current laser transmissions, only to find they did it for centuries but have now taken a multi-millennium break!

If you found all that fascinating, I'd recommend purchasing my book 'The Golden Web'. Be warned, the Sirius laser beam theory is one of the least weird elements...