Search for Half Built Dyson Spheres Finds Seven Candidates from Gaia DR3, 2MASS, and WISE

Astronomers decided to look for partially constructed Dyson spheres and other megastructures around stars. They determined that half-built Dyson spheres or megastructures would be easy to see with our telescopes. They made a fairly comprehensive search and found seven candidate stars. The candidate stars are all white dwarfs. They also eliminated stars where other astrophysical reasons could confuse

The best ways to search for extraterrestrial intelligence is to theorize what should be easy to see with our instruments and then to try to look for those signatures. The Milky Way galaxy contains between 100 and 400 billion stars, and at least as many planets. If aliens tried what we have tried so far then they would not detect our civilization.

Dyson spheres, megastructures that could be constructed by advanced civilizations to harness the radiation energy of their host stars, represent a potential technosignature, that in principle may be hiding in public data already collected as part of large astronomical surveys. In this study, researchers present a comprehensive search for partial Dyson spheres by analyzing optical and infrared observations from Gaia, 2MASS, and WISE. They developed a pipeline that employs multiple filters to identify potential candidates and reject interlopers in a sample of five million objects, which incorporates a convolutional neural network to help identify confusion in WISE data. Finally, the pipeline identifies 7 candidates deserving of further analysis. All of these objects are M-dwarfs, for which astrophysical phenomena cannot easily account for the observed infrared excess emission.

Project Hephaistos – II. Dyson sphere candidates from Gaia DR3, 2MASS, and WISE

Freeman Dyson came invented the idea of a Dyson sphere in the 1960s. An advanced civilization can construct an artificial, light-absorbing structure around their host star. This hypothetical structure, later referred to as a Dyson Sphere would allow them to harvest energy in the form of starlight. Starlight harvesting could, in principle, result in different observational signatures that may be detected using existing telescopes. These signatures include optical dimming of the host star due to direct obscuration, and waste-heat emission from the structure.

Most search efforts have aimed for individual complete Dyson spheres, employing far-infrared photometry (e.g., Slysh 1985;Jugaku & Nishimura 1991; Timofeev et al. 2000; Carrigan 2009) from the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS: Neugebauer et al. 1984), while a few considered partial Dyson spheres (e.g., Jugaku & Nishimura 2004). IRAS scanned the sky in the far infrared, providing data of ≈ 250,000 point sources. Currently astronomers rely on photometric surveys covering optical, near-infrared, and mid-infrared wavelengths that reach object counts of up to about one billion targets and allow for larger search programs.

Within the context of Project Hephaistos, in Suazo et al. (2022) the researchers established upper limits on the prevalence of partial Dyson
spheres in the Milky Way by analyzing the fraction of sources from Gaia DR2 and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) that
exhibit infrared excess. In total, more than 100 million stars were analyzed in that work. The exact upper limits on the fraction of stars that may host Dyson spheres reported by Suazo et al. (2022) are a function of distance, covering fraction and Dyson sphere temperature, but reach as low as ∼ 1 in 100,000 objects in the most constraining situation.

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23 thoughts on “Search for Half Built Dyson Spheres Finds Seven Candidates from Gaia DR3, 2MASS, and WISE”

  1. Not sure where your energy is coming from if not from a star. White dwarfs seem an excellent choice for central power generator. Dyson swarm is the obvious solution, for dynamical reasons if not for practicality (build steadily over time). Only real ultimate alternative is to build your structures around the milky way central blackhole and extract energy from its spin or from the accretion disk.

  2. Hopefully we will be let out of our stellar bottle and beyond the star-obsessed energy generation mode before we can build any of those. This star system – confined megastructures idea sounds pretty depressing. These would (if they exist) be signs of an imprisoned culture, or an AI gone berserk.

  3. Honestly I hope that by the time we can build a dyson sphere we’ve found better ways for producing energy, what a waste of resources it would be, not to speak of all the asteroids bashing it all the time… I also wonder if we’d ever need so much energy in such a concentrated place! A death ray really would come in the picture I gues, or maybe a portal opener?

  4. How could one distinguish between the picture above and a solar system compromised mostly of asteroids?

    Why half built? Why not a Ring World? As a matter of basic engineering you don’t just jump to building a Dyson Sphere when you can demonstrate the feasibility by building a Ring World. The forces involved are well … astronomical. Honestly, how would you deal with a CME? A Ring World would require a massive magnetic field coil along its length to protect it, a Dyson Sphere, how would that work? From a practical standpoint the prevalence of Ring Worlds should be quite common.

    • A Dyson sphere doesn’t imply a solid shell. Just a lot of huge solar panels in several orbits collecting the star energy, in such amount as to visibly reduce the star’s apparent luminosity, while keeping the same stellar energy output as infrared emissions.

    • A true ringworld would require “scrith”, with a million times (?) the tensile strength of any molecular bond.

  5. half build is probably Fully build with gaps otherwise you get a problem with dumping waste heat. Indeed they need to model the different type of dyson spheres for their specific signatures.

  6. A swarm would make sense, as it could grow in coverage as needed, but the completed elements would be usable at once.

    White dwarfs also make a certain kind of sense as, without a massive infall of additional material, they will never go nova, or have flares, or do anything at all other than grow cooler, and, since there are not yet any black dwarfs in our universe, this process is thought to take tens of billions of years as a minimum (and even hundreds of billions for the ones that were large enough to burn to a later element on the periodic table). 97% of all stars will eventually become white dwarfs so this seems like the place to focus such efforts.

    And who knows? Those many billions of years may provide lots of time to collect more hydrogen for fusion energy production when the black dwarf finally grows too cool. This could be a way to eke out trillions of years of existence with little to no risk, providing you can plot out future potential near collisions with other stars. And, as the various elements of the swarm could presumably readjust their own orbits, they could not be torn free without an extremely near pass.

    Of course, the ultimate form of long-term security might be to build a Dyson sphere around a young, very large, white dwarf that is already on a trajectory that will take it safely right out of the galaxy and into intergalactic space. In this way, even very far off collisions would become extremely unlikely. Also, bad things might be in the works just a few billion years hence, when the Andromeda Galaxy collides with our own. It’s even possible the merging centers could produce a new quasar, which might be rather unhealthy to be here for.

    And of course, if we turn out to be grabby aliens, it gets them away from us.

  7. Lot of “funny “ comments of something that could be crucial in our position in the future

    • Hopefully not. We must find a way to get out of here, and stop depending on any star for energy.

  8. I hope that “half built” does not means that that the sphere has an open area to pass through with a death ray they use to sterilize other more or less nearby competitor civilizations…

  9. Don’t you have to have at least some concept of how they’re built, before you can model how partially built ones would affect a star’s light?

    • Seems it refers to partially occluded star light, whatever the construction method.

      I mean, there are lots of steps between having a few solar power plants in orbit and eclipsing the full star output.

      But all of the detectable ones pass through large black bodies blocking direct light going from the start to here and emitting IR at quasi-random intervals (they’re not random ofc, given they depend on orbital parameters).

  10. “Half built Dyson spheres”? Perhaps some idiot cut off the funding… Perhaps “they” have some of the same problems us idiots do… However, a Dyson sphere would require such huge mass, the sun it enclosed, IMO would go “wacko”. Unless they used adaptive mass-inertia materials, that would not exert stress on their sun. This is engineering far beyond my tiny brain. Then again, when we know what a problem is, that’s the first step in ‘dealing w/it” What can I say but Good Luck all…

  11. Seems like any civilization that can make Dyson spheres could make fusion power.

    Maybe the spheres are just sunny vacation properties. Like the Dubai man made islands.

    • I would agree. In the history of the human race, when certain people make more money then they need to survive, we try to figure out how to invest that to actually make more money over time. Be it islands off Dubai, or islands in space. The latter has far more potential, to change the very nature of human reality. And were very close to doing the latter. Deal w/that, boys and girls… Oh please, lets make amazing things happen, for everyone… Oh please, I beg you… Everyone will have so much god damn fun if s*** like that happens.

      So many of us, will be running naked in the streets w/absolute joy, those people not wearing cloths, won’t care. Those people who create a truly new, remarkable future, will not be worried about the “silly things” that so preoccupy us now. 100 years ago, people were “worried” about stuff we today might call ignorant, or uninformed.

      But today, there are people who we have the same opinion of. Just because some ones POV we disagree with, does not mean their POV is not important, to them. As a scientist, I ask for rational answers, to logical questions. Sometimes I hear; God says so!. Or, your a left wing (expletive deleted) Hey, if your not willing to hear what I have to say and why, I’m not going to force it down your face. I care about what you believe, though I may not agree w/you.

      Give me the same f****** courtesy.

    • Can any civilization make as much fusion power as a star?

      The Sun transforms 4 million tons of hydrogen into pure energy per second, while fusing hydrogen into helium (missing mass 4 million tons per second)

      the question is why would anyone need so much. Maybe to rip the fabric of space-time for FTL… like wormholes, stargates, etc.

  12. Ok…I know the Concept…but…
    What are they doing with the Energy…how do they Store it..what are they producing,transforming..
    Is there and more Studies about Dyson Spheres beyond capturing Energy ?

    • Look up SIFA: Science and Futurism with Isaac Arthur on YouTube for about 400 videos on this and related topics. Search under Megastructures for a deep dive into the implications.

    • The energy is being captured and used by the numerous habitats that is swarming the sun. The sphere is more of a cloud of habitats. The solar system can hold a lot of life beyond just planets if you have energy. This was the original idea.

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