Are there aliens there? Based on statistics alone, the answer should be a definite yes. The Milky Way has at least 100 billion stars and the vast majority of them have planets orbiting them. But while the numbers are on our side, the evidence remains insufficient.
The Breakthrough Listen project delivered the first results of its massive new SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) investigation in search of extraterrestrial civilizations. And when we say massive, we mean massive. The observations focused on 60 million stars in the direction of the galactic center, a region where the stars are closer. By looking at a fairly small but busy part of the sky, astronomers can study many worlds.
The team collected 600 hours of data using the Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia and CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope in Australia, detailing the observations in an article accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.
The team couldn’t find any signals, but it’s important to note that they were looking for purposely emitted signals, called technosignatures – optical or microwave signals, laser emissions, or even “megastructures” – in their research; some kind of alien beacon that says “Hey, here we are!” or given the distances involved, “Hey, we were here thousands of years ago!”
Finding a radio show that was not sent on purpose takes a lot more work. The team uses the phrase “eavesdropping on leakage radiation”. While science fiction often focuses on the potential of television transmissions as the primary signal, Earth’s biggest leak actually comes from airport radar. So maybe future research will spot these types of signals rather than a transmission of Real Housewives from Zeta Reticuli Prime.
While the investigation did not find any aliens, it is pushing the boundaries of what it can be accomplished when it comes to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. “We have compared the sensitivity of our survey to some of the major SETI surveys and demonstrate that our survey has remarkable sensitivity with a frequency range never before explored for SETI,” the authors conclude in their article.
There is no one way to search for extraterrestrial life, but the search for technosignatures is one in which humanity has placed a great deal of hope of discovery, as these signals might be easier to spot than to discover. particular molecules in the atmosphere of distant planets, known as biosignatures.
Alien life can even be found in simple structures closer to home; in the deep oceans of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, or maybe even on Mars.
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