Space life search turns to TV and radio signals
Monday, January 8th, 2007
Is there intelligent life on other planets? If so, what do space aliens watch on TV? Astronomers plan to search 1,000 nearby stars for television broadcasts and other signals that could indicate extraterrestrial life, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announces today.
The project, planned for early 2008, would use a new radio telescope to search for radio traffic similar to that found on Earth. Current efforts to find extraterrestrial life look for messages deliberately beamed across space - an approach that would miss any civilization that does not advertise its existence as Earth’s does. The new effort would search a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum used on Earth for more mundane purposes - radar, television and FM radio broadcasts.
“We may pick up spurious signals from people that never meant for us to hear them and get an inkling that something’s going on,” said David Aguilar, director of communications at the Center for Astrophysics. The electromagnetic spectrum spans radiation from high-energy waves such as gamma rays and X-rays to lower-energy microwave and radio waves, with visible light falling somewhere in the middle.
A new low-frequency telescope under construction in the Australian outback will be remote enough to avoid most radio interference. The project will be able to detect Earth-like radio signals within a distance of 30 light years, which encompasses about 1,000 stars. The project will be formally presented at a conference of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle on Wednesday.
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