According to a new study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, advanced alien civilizations may soon be able to locate us by using signals from cell phone towers that have been leaking from Earth.
Scientists from the University of Manchester and the University of Mauritius created a model of this signal leakage using publicly available data of cell phone tower locations.
“I’ve heard many colleagues suggest that the Earth has become increasingly radio quiet in recent years – a claim that I always contested,” said lead author Professor Mike Garret, director of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester.
“Although it’s true we have fewer powerful TV and radio transmitters today, the proliferation of mobile communication systems around the world is profound. While each system represents relatively low radio powers individually, the integrated spectrum of billions of these devices is substantial.
“Current estimates suggest we will have more than 100,000 satellites in low Earth orbit and beyond before the end of the decade. The Earth is already anomalously bright in the radio part of the spectrum; if the trend continues, we could become readily detectable by any advanced civilization with the right technology.”
Using models created by Ramiro Saide of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institution’s Hat Creek Radio Observatory, the scientists determined, “In terms of detectability, we conclude that any nearby civilization located within 10 light-years of Earth and equipped with a receiving system comparable to the GBT [Green Bank radio telescope] would not detect the Earth’s mobile tower leakage.
“However, mobile systems are in their infancy, and the future development of this technology (e.g. 5G systems and beyond) suggests that this component of the Earth’s leakage will continue to increase in power over time,” they added. “If the leakage can be detected, an extraterrestrial observer would be able to discern various details of the nature of our planet and the distribution of technology on its surface.”