Astronomy Fun Fact #67
There's an actual protocol in place for what to do if someone ever detects aliens!
In 1989, the International Academy of Astronautics gathered to create a set of guidelines to follow in case SETI (the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) was ever successful in finding alien life. The document is called the "Declaration of Principles Concerning Activities Following the Detection of Extraterrestrial Intelligence" and it can be found here: http://www.setileague.org/iaaseti/protdet.htm
They updated the protocol in the 2000s, but here are the basic steps someone is supposed to take if they think they've detected alien life:
1. Check that the signal is real
2. Ask astronomers at other telescope facilities to check that the signal is real
3. Gather a team of experts to make sure there are no other possible explanations for the signal
4. If everyone agrees that the signal is from aliens, they need to alert a bunch of official people/organizations, like the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams of the International Astronomical Union and the Secretary General of the UN.
5. Spread the information quickly through scientific publishing and media channels.
So you can rest assured that if an astronomer ever does discover alien life, you'll hear about it. It's the law. But it's also that astronomer's guaranteed ticket to a Nobel Prize, so you best believe they wouldn't stay quiet about it!