Listening for ET

Article written: 8 Jan , 2007
Updated: 24 Mar , 2012
by

Artist impression of an alien civilization. Image credit: CfAAre we alone in the Universe? We won’t know until we really start looking for life around other stars… or listening for it.

Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics are proposing a new method that could detect Earth-like civilizations around the 1,000 nearest stars.

Previous searches for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI, have assumed that the aliens want us find them. The searchers have looked for a focused signal from another star. Instead, this new survey would look for the accidental leakage from an alien civilization. In other words, we’d be listening in on their television broadcasts, FM transmissions, or military radars.

One instrument that might do the trick is the Mileura Wide-Field Array, which is being built in Australia. It could be powerful enough to pick up a transmission from within a 30 light-year radius – containing 1,000 stars. An even more powerful radio observatory, like the Square Kilometer Array, could pick up broadcasts within 10 times the radius. This would encompass a volume containing 100 million stars.


5 Responses

  1. patrick says

    we are definately not alone.

  2. Peter Langham says

    Why listen for messages sent from distant stars. The message would have to be very powerful and last for a long time. Would’nt it be better to visit and leave a message coded in the four “letters” of DNA. Has anyone looked for a pattern in genes?

  3. Chuck Lam says

    Hmm . . . can’t help wondering what fraction of a femto-watt of any frequency RF does SETI believe they can detect. Does anyone have any idea?

  4. The SETI Institute’s Project Phoenix using the Arecibo Obesrvatory was sensitive to roughly 10 ^ -26 watts / square meter in a 1 Hertz channel. Phoenix operated at Arecibo for a total of about 100 days during 1998 – 2004.

    Traditional [email protected] is a bit less sensitive but the Astropulse version of [email protected] may be more sensitive to some types of pulsed signals.

  5. star says

    Why when the pioneer probes, launched did they include.
    Man n woman and woman with child, the double helix, and other DNA typre information.
    If no ET exists?
    Also why was the Pyramids shown with a make over landing strip.
    It beggars belief, that since then the info that was thru Military links, is no longer available.
    Then think of Edgar Cacye propechy and the Hoppi indians prophecy.
    If Groom Lake is true, why is the public, seen
    as not being able to handle, this info/
    Why do other countries, film and make mention, of RT such as sweden.
    WW2
    they helped downed or downing fighter planes, this also shows, Good ET, ok like earth, their are Black n white, same maybe out there, but please, not all of us, are still Monkeys outside the cave banging rocks together, some of us are exploring the tundra with the gentle, giants of that period?
    Come on ET.

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