Should SETI Talk To Molecular Cloud Barnard 68?

Molecular Cloud Barnard 68 is relatively close - just 500 light-years away. Okay, I'll grant you that communication would be a long shot; at that distance, it would be your great(40x)grandchild who would hear a reply.


(Molecular Cloud Barnard 68)

What used to be considered a hole in the sky is now known to astronomers as a dark molecular cloud. Here, a high concentration of dust and molecular gas absorb practically all the visible light emitted from background stars. The eerily dark surroundings help make the interiors of molecular clouds some of the coldest and most isolated places in the universe. One of the most notable of these dark absorption nebulae is a cloud toward the constellation Ophiuchus known as Barnard 68, pictured above. That no stars are visible in the center indicates that Barnard 68 is relatively nearby, with measurements placing it about 500 light-years away and half a light-year across. It is not known exactly how molecular clouds like Barnard 68 form, but it is known that these clouds are themselves likely places for new stars to form. In fact, Barnard 68 itself has been found likely to collapse and form a new star system.

Why would you consider conversing with a black cloud in space? Cue one of my favorite scientist/science fiction authors, Fred Hoyle.

In his 1957 book The Black Cloud, astronomer and sf author Fred Hoyle discusses the possibility of an intelligent, living cloud in space. Not to sensationalize this story, but here's one of the covers of Hoyle's novel; the 1959 paperback edition.


(Earth menaced by a power beyond the planets and older than time!)

And here's a quote from the cloud:

[I]t is most unusual to find animals with technical skills inhabiting planets, which are in the nature of extreme outposts of life... Living on the surface of a solid body, you are exposed to a strong gravitational force. This greatly limits the size to which your animals can grow and hence limits the scope of your neurological activity. It forces you to possess muscular structures to promote movements, and ... to carry protective armour ...

[Y]our very largest animals have been mostly bone and muscle with very little brain... By and large, one only expects intelligent life to exist in a diffuse gaseous medium... The second unfavourable factor is your extreme lack of basic chemical foods. For the building of chemical foods on a large scale starlight is necessary. Your planet, however, absorbs only a very minute fraction of the light from the Sun. At the moment, I myself am building basic chemicals at about 10,000,000,000 times the rate at which building is occurring on the whole ... surface of your planet.

From Astronomy Picture of the Day via Fred Kiesche's Bernal Alpha (aka @Fred_Kiesche).

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