SETI astronomers have eavesdropped on an alien star system thought to contain two "habitable" worlds in the hope of hearing a radio transmission from an extraterrestrial intelligence. Sadly, there appears to be no chatty aliens living around the red dwarf star Gliese 581. In results announced last week by Australian SETI astronomers, of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at Curtin University in Perth, Gliese 581 was precisely targeted by Australian Long Baseline Array using three radio telescope facilities across Australia. This is the first time the technique of very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) has been used to target a specific star in the hunt for extraterrestrials, so although it didn't turn up any aliens, it is a proof of concept that may prove invaluable for future SETI projects...
Tag Archives | SETI
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Late one night in the summer of 1977, a large radio telescope outside Delaware, Ohio intercepted a radio signal that seemed for a brief time like it might change the course of human history. The telescope was searching the sky on behalf of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and the signal, though it lasted only seventy-two seconds, fit the profile of a message beamed from another world. Despite its potential import, several days went by before Jerry Ehman, a project scientist for SETI, noticed the data.
He was flipping through the computer printouts generated by the telescope when he noticed a string of letters within a long sequence of low numbers — ones, twos, threes and fours. The low numbers represent background noise, the low hum of an ordinary signal. As the telescope swept across the sky, it momentarily landed on something quite extraordinary, causing the signal to surge and the computer to shift from numbers to letters and then keep climbing all the way up to “U,” which represented a signal thirty times higher than the background noise level.
Good news for those hoping to find aliens, reported by Deborah Netburn for the LA Times:
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Citizens of the world: You are awesome. This week the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute announced that it had raised more than $200,000 from a crowd-sourced fundraising effort that launched this spring. The money, which came from just over 2,000 people who want to keep the search for alien life alive, will help the institute put its Allen Telescope Array back online.
“We are so grateful to our donors,” said Tom Pierson, who co-founded the SETI Institute with Jill Tarter (the inspiration for Jodie Foster’s character in “Contact”). “We believe we will be back on the air in September.”
On the Setistars website, where the call for donations was originally placed, large red type proclaims: “Thank You for Your Support to Resume the Search!”
The Allen Telescope Array, or ATA, is a series of 42 linked radio-telescope dishes funded by a $30-million gift from Microsoft Corp.
Mankind has been broadcasting radio waves into deep space for about a hundred years now — since the days of Marconi. That, of course, means there is an ever-expanding bubble announcing Humanity’s presence to anyone listening in the Milky Way. This bubble is astronomically large (literally), and currently spans approximately 200 light years across. But how big is this, really, compared to the size of the Galaxy in which we live (which is, itself, just one of countless billions of galaxies in the observable universe)?
Former disinfonaut Nick Hodulik’s company General Things has recently helped the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) launch SETIstars, a new initiative meant to get the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) back into action.
The ATA is SETI’s primary tool for scanning the skies for potential intelligent life, and recent federal and state budget deficits have cut its funding so severely as to force it to shut down. It takes $200,000 per month to pay the staff and operating expenses of the ATA, and SETIstars hopes to help bridge the gap between the community and SETI in order to get the ATA up and running again. Please donate today!
So it looks like the Allen Telescope Array is falling onto the chopping block in this era of fiscal “emergency.” To me, this sounds a lot like the recent battle to defund NPR or PBS, in that the money they need to continue is just ... chump change in the grand scheme of finances. They’re $2.5 million short, and for that, they’ll need to stop taking data and shut down the telescope array. It deeply bums me out to think that such a low value is placed on the quest to find other intelligence in our universe. When compared with so many other things that gladly get millions or billions of dollars, it’s maddening to see SETI so marginalized ... And to put things into perspective, I’ve whipped up this handy infographic, comparing how $2.5 million compares to so many other things that we absolutely must have, and will not hesitate to pay for:Background info on the shutdown here.
There was a time when running the SETI@Home screensaver to provide spare computing power to find alien radio transmissions was the coolest thing on the Internet (SETI = Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). That was a long time ago, though, and now the SETI Institute has closed down the Alien Telescope Array, effectively giving up the search, for lack of interest and funding. Lisa Kriegel reports for the Mercury News:
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If E.T. phones Earth, he’ll get a “disconnect” signal.
Lacking the money to pay its operating expenses, Mountain View’s SETI Institute has pulled the plug on the renowned Allen Telescope Array, a field of radio dishes that scan the skies for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations.
In an April 22 letter to donors, SETI Institute CEO Tom Pierson said that last week the array was put into “hibernation,” safe but nonfunctioning, because of inadequate government support.
Ray Villard writes on Discovery News:
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Rather than looking for aliens who use interstellar radio signals to say “hi,” an alternative search strategy is simply to spy on any mega-engineering projects that an advanced civilization might be undertaking. Veteran SETI astronomer Jill Tarter calls this strategy “SETT” — the Search for Extraterrestrial Technology.
A new science paper by Duncan Forgan at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Martin Elvis at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., suggests we look for evidence of a very ambitious macro-engineering project: the wholesale mining of an asteroid belt. The asteroid material may be mined to build space colonies, solar power satellites or maybe even an entire “ringworld,” as imagined by sci-fi writer Larry Niven.
What’s more, precious metals are in high demand for technologies such as computers, high-speed networks and mobile phones. So-called “green technologies” of the future, such as hydrogen fuel cells, will also place a demand on rare resources.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Proof of extraterrestrial intelligence could come within 25 years, an astronomer who works on the search said Sunday.
“I actually think the chances that we’ll find ET are pretty good,” said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute in Mountain View, Calif., here at the SETI con convention. “Young people in the audience, I think there’s a really good chance you’re going to see this happen.”
Shostak bases this estimation on the Drake Equation, a formula conceived by SETI pioneer Frank Drake to calculate the number (N) of alien civilizations with whom we might be able to communicate. That equation takes into account a variety of factors, including the rate of star formation in the galaxy, the fraction of stars that have planets, the fraction of planets that are habitable, the percent of those that actually develop life, the percent of those that develop intelligent life, the fraction of civilizations that have a technology that can broadcast their presence into space, and the length of time those signals would be broadcasted…
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CTV News reports:
Stephen Hawking’s warnings of an alien invasion have prompted a vigorous defence of extraterrestrials by their most prominent Canadian fan. Former federal defence minister Paul Hellyer, 86, believes not only that aliens have visited Earth but also that they have contributed greatly to human technological advances.
So he can’t quite understand why the world renowned astrophysicist views them with such trepidation; Hawking recently warned that malevolent aliens could lead to the destruction of humanity.
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The longtime cabinet minister accuses Hawking of spreading misinformation about extraterrestrials.
“I think he’s indulging in some pretty scary talk there that I would have hoped would not come from someone with such an established stature,” Hellyer said in an interview.
“I think it’s really sad that a scientist of his repute would contribute to what I would consider more misinformation about a vast and very important subject.”
Hawking speculates in a new documentary that most extraterrestrial life will be similar to microbes, or small animals — but he adds that advanced life forms may be “nomads, looking to conquer and colonize” new planets.