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Alien life – humankind has been searching for life beyond our own planet Earth ever since we first looked up to the stars. Researchers just published a study that says aliens may be trying to contact us, and now a new $100 million, multi-year study will focus on Tabby's star and the intriguing anomalies that some speculate may be signs of alien technology.

Radio signals from deep space

Earlier this month, two scientists from the Université Laval in Québec City, Canada, published a study that analyzed the data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS,) a massive project that creates three-dimensional maps of the universe. Out of all the millions of stars the project has cataloged, the researchers found that a relative few, or about 234 in total, were displaying color fluctuations that appeared to repeat according to specific patterns.

What makes the phenomenon remarkable is that these spectral modulations are occurring in the same type of pattern across the 234 different stars, as if it was a coordinated and deliberate signal -- a signal from aliens to us, they believe. Naturally, there is also a slightly more boring explanation, namely, that the stars in question simply share an unusual chemical make-up that makes them modulate colors in the same way.

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Breakthrough Listen initiative

The Laval scientists' theory now needs to be tested and verified. In the meantime, other groups are looking to take the initiative in making contact with alien civilizations. "It would be bizarre if we're the only ones," says Dan Werthimer, Chief Scientist at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Research Center at UC Berkeley in a video interview with Space Magazine. With that central concept in mind, SETI sends radio, television, and other signals out into space, aiming to reach alien civilizations. On October 25, 2016, it was announced that SETI's Breakthrough Listen initiative will spend $100 million over the next decade studying Tabby's star.

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Tabby's star, aka KIC 8462852, is located about 1,500 light years away from earth. It has had the astronomical community buzzing since its anomalies were documented earlier this year by Yale University post-doctoral researcher Tabetha Boyajian, who gave the star its name. Odd light fluctuations point to a mysterious object that isn't round, and whose movement around the star doesn't correspond to a regular orbit. So what is it? One of the theories is that an advanced alien civilization may have built a huge structure around the star, one that has been dubbed a Dyson structure. It's something astrophysicists have been speculating about for years -- a type of megastructure that would be able to harvest energy off a dying star by using a series of solar panels in orbit.

Alien technology or weird unknown object -- whatever it is, the scientists at SETI have the best chances available to find out. The organization has access to the most advanced radio instrumentation in the world, including the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

At 330 feet (100 meters) wide, it's the largest, fully steerable telescope on the planet. The world's most extensive radio network lets SETI look at the widest range of radio waves possible, encompassing billions of radio channels.

Are aliens trying to contact us? Or will we reach an alien civilization first? We may be about to find out.