New Radio Telescope to Help SETI Scan Unexplored Frequencies for Extraterrestrials

Article written: 16 Jun , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

Since the 1960’s astronomers have been scanning the heavens, searching for radio signals beamed towards the vicinity of Earth by other intelligent beings. But so far, no ET signals have been found. However, no radio telescope has been able to search the very low frequency radio spectrum, which could possibly include “leakage” of extraterrestrial “everyday” signals that a distant civilization might emit, such as television and radio signals. But a new radio telescope called LOFAR (the Low Frequency Array), will have that ability. Currently being built by ASTRON, (the Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy), LOFAR consists of about 25,000 small antennas that will receive signals from space, and offers the ability to search these low-frequency type of radio waves.

According to Professor Michael Garrett, General Director of ASTRON, LOFAR is well suited to SETI research. “LOFAR can extend the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence to an entirely unexplored part of the low-frequency radio spectrum, an area that is heavily used for civil and military communications here on Earth. In addition, LOFAR can survey large areas of the sky simultaneously – an important advantage if SETI signals are rare or transient in nature.”

Astronomers believe of the approximately 100 thousand million stars in the galaxy, most of these have planetary systems. Some of these planets might actually be suitable for life and many scientists believe that life is probably wide-spread across the galaxy. However, technically advanced civilizations might be relatively rare or at least widely separated from each other.

Despite the huge distances between stars, the next generation of radio telescopes, such as LOFAR, begin to offer the possibility of detecting radio signals associated with extraterrestrial radio and TV transmitters.

Dan Werthimer, a [email protected] project Scientist at the University of Berkeley said, “SETI searches are still only scratching the surface, we need to use as many different telescopes, techniques and strategies as possible, in order to maximize our chances of success.”

Professor Garrett thinks it is high time European scientists began to support their colleagues from the United States in this exciting area of research. “I cannot think of a more important question humanity can ask and perhaps now answer. Are we truly alone in the Universe or are there other civilizations out there waiting to be discovered? Either way, the implications are tremendous.”

LOFAR will begin its scans of low frequency radio waves when the array is completed in 2009.

Original News Source: ASTRON


21 Responses

  1. Andy says

    Here’s a question…How will we know how far away the origin of the signal is? I would think that would have a huge impact on how accurately we can identify the source. Put another way, how far away could another civilization be and still be able to identify our solar system as the source of all these radio waves using similar equipment?

  2. Sili says

    Can this array be used for anything useful? I mean, is there any real science to be found in this frequency band?

    And what will they do if the aliens code their television signals? Or are we relying on free cable?

  3. Jason says

    How far could those low-frequencies travel?I think contact would be remote to say the least as much as Id like it to happen.Unless it were a race as young as ours I dont see the piont of a civilization contacting us at all.

  4. Al Hall says

    Space mirrors, again? …. 🙁

  5. A7 says

    I want alien TV…

  6. For more information about LOFAR, see the link in the article above. It will be used for lots of different radio astronomy, such as looking for cosmic rays, dark matter, etc. If you search Universe Today (the search is near the top of the page on the right side) you’ll see several articles that discuss the different things LOFAR can look for. What makes it so great is how big it will be when all the sites get up and running.

  7. greg c says

    news flash!
    space mirror website = rubbish.
    i have never ever read such poorly written english. i know i am reading english words but i cant understand the sentences for the life of me.

  8. Rastloser says

    Also take a look at the Wikipedia page on LOFAR. I know one of the people who have been setting up the Effelsberg LOFAR station, and judging from what he told me, the Wikipedia article is pretty much correct this time 🙂

    What I always find fascinating is when you’re standing at the Effelsberg LOFAR facility, with the huge 100 m dish behind you, and look at those extremely small and simple LOFAR antennae. So much has been moved from hardware to software there…

    Some good images are on the (german) site http://www.mpifr-bonn.mpg.de/div/lofar/druckversion/erste_lofar.html

  9. H-town Mack says

    What I would give to see an alien TV show or broadcast. It would probably freak you out at first and then you’d get used to it the more you saw of it and other broadcasts.

  10. alan says

    We need to get a little better telescopes to find earth size planets around nearby stars. Then focus SETI on them.
    For us to pickup a signal the alien world would probably have to be sending high power signals directly at us for us to pick them up.
    So I think we will detect life with optical telescopes before SETI does. I mean detecting Oxygen in the atmosphere of the planet.

  11. Patrick A. Ward says

    I just lost 10 minutes of my life looking at the “Space Mirror Website”…
    It makes so little sense that its funny.

    An idea for Frasier: can you nominate “editors” that can moderate these comments?

  12. Aodhhan says

    Look at how many different things we have found using the middle and upper bands of the EM spectrum. I have a feeling there will be a lot of exciting discoveries using frequencies between 30-240 Mhz.

    Perhaps we can get great views of magnetic fields and cosmic rays! Keep fingers crossed!!

  13. Aodhhan says

    Pradipta…

    Please make your way on the next comet. Thank you.

  14. Neil says

    Pradipta. allow me to talk your language..

    No one want to hear your mystery.

    Real mystery is why you to continue post here

    No one care!

  15. Patrick A. Ward says

    Pradipta, mate.
    I looked again at your website. I am now convinced!

    We need to ask NASA to stop the Voyagers or they might break your mirror!

  16. Kevin M. says

    The mirror theory is attempting to explain the incomprehensible distance of space as the optical illusion of mirrors. While not very physics-based, the poetic or lyrical imagination behind this theory has been the cause of many breakthroughs and insights in physics otherwise insurmountable. Einstein was such a poetic rumination on Newton, showing by simple observation that his “laws” were rife with interior contradictions – which released vast new insights and possibilities for exploitation. These contradictions have been borne out by later studies in quantum energy, particle and light physics – looked at closely, matter devolves into logical and physical irrationalities.

    I believe that the vast distances of space will not be overcome by ever-bigger propulsion systems, but by some amateur “patent clerk” on earth looking for an easier way to “get there from here”, using less or no energy, and this, like Einstein, will take only contemplative reflection and an open mind about the “interiority” of matter. The scientific method is limited – it can never reach the material end, because there is no material end to reach. We exist in an infinite eqilibrium of energies without boundaries, somewhere between our perception and actuality. At the point of physical resource exhaustion, the scientific method must collapse into interiority and reflection.

  17. Al Hall says

    Kevin M. –
    Thanks man! .. You saved me $10,000!… 🙂
    But seriously.. I understand what you are saying, but I think it will be a while before we stop thinking “physically”.

  18. Chuck Lam says

    I don’t understand how SETI expects to detect a femto-watt of any frequency of modulated rf against an overwhelming background of natural cosmic noise. It’s like looking for a lit candle on some star. SETI should take another look at the math.

  19. Vladimir Kartashov says

    I surprise with many fource,
    connected with findings ETL.
    At firths we must define what are life
    and after this made search ETP and ETL.
    Sincerelly!

  20. Al Hall says

    Let’s do both at the same time..

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