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Expansive Radio Array to Explore for Extraterrestrial Signals from Other Civilizations


Extra Large Collection by Karl G. Jansky. Credit: VLA/NRAO

One of the world’s most powerful arrays of radio telescopes joins the search for signals from other galactic civilizations. The National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), located about 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico, is collecting data that scientists will analyze for just the kind of emissions artificial transmitters make, signals that would betray existence. . for a technically successful society.

“The VLA is the instrument that radio astronomers use, but this is the first time we’ve used it in a large-scale, ongoing search for technical fingerprints,” said Andrew Simeon, Bernard Oliver Chair for SETI at the SETI Institute. .

The VLA is one of the most productive radio telescopes in the world and consists of 27 antennas spread over 23 miles of desert terrain. Since 2017, I’ve been involved in a project known as VLASS (Very Large Array Sky Survey), which is a radio survey of 80% of the sky.

But while you’re making these observations, clicking on the signal distribution grid will send a copy of the data to a special receiver with very narrow channels (about one hertz wide). The researchers expect that any signals from a deliberately constructed transmitter will contain such narrowband components, and their discovery will indicate that the signal is not produced by nature, but rather by an alien transmitter.

The new processing system for SETI is called “COSMIC” – Open Source Interferometric Interferometer Suite – and is being led by the SETI Institute, in collaboration with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Breakthrough Listening Initiative.

A huge radio group to search for extraterrestrial signals from other civilizations

Research scientists at the SETI Institute, Dr. Savin Varghese and Dr. Chenoa Tremblay, are on site in the Very Large Matrix. Credit: Chinua Tremblay

“COSMIC works in proportion, which means it works in the background using a copy of the data that astronomers take in for other science purposes,” said Paul Demorest, scientist and head of the VLA/VLBA Science Support Group at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. “This is an ideal and very efficient way to get large amounts of telescope time searching for rare signals.”

Unlike many previous SETI observations, a variety of transmissions, such as pulsed and transient signals, can be identified with this new experiment. The range of frequencies to be monitored is unprecedented, and the number of star systems examined will number nearly ten million.

Since the beginning of 2023, the COSMIC system has detected signals from the Voyager 1 spacecraft to verify the operation of the individual antennas in the array as well as combining its observations to produce a result that clearly shows the carrier and sidebands of the transmissions from the spacecraft. Voyager 1 is currently at a distance of about 15 billion miles and is the most distant human-made object.

A huge radio group to search for extraterrestrial signals from other civilizations

Detection of the Voyager 1 spacecraft using the COSMIC instrument on the VLA. Launched in 1977, the Voyager I spacecraft is now the farthest piece of human technology ever sent into space, currently about 14.8 billion miles from Earth. Voyager’s faint radio transmitter is difficult to detect with even the largest of telescopes, and represents an ideal human “technology signature” for testing the performance of SETI instruments. The discovery of the Voyager downlink gives the COSMIC team high confidence that the system can detect similar artificial transmitters potentially originating from distant extraterrestrial civilizations. Credit: SETI Institute

Jack Heckish, Founder, Real-Time Radio Systems Ltd. “The discovery of Voyager 1 is an exciting demonstration of the capabilities of the COSMIC system. It is the culmination of a tremendous amount of work by an international team of scientists and engineers. The COSMIC system is a great example of using modern, general-purpose computing hardware to augment the capabilities of an existing telescope and serves as a testbed for technical fingerprinting research on Upcoming radio telescopes like NRAO’s Next Generation VLA.”

When combined with the remarkable sensitivity of the VLA, COSMIC will be nearly a thousand times more comprehensive than any previous SETI research. History shows that major improvements in the sensitivity and range of exploratory trials are often rewarded with signal detection. If so, this effort could see the detection of a radio whisper telling us we’re not the only intelligent inhabitants of the Milky Way.

“The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is proud to partner with the SETI Institute on this exciting initiative,” said Tony Beasley, director of NRAO. “Partnerships that bring together world-class research tools, private research institutes, and members of the public personally committed to science at the forefront can enable important new discoveries.”

Provided by the SETI Institute

the quote: Massive Radio Array to Search for Extraterrestrial Signals from Other Civilizations (2023, May 1) Retrieved May 1, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-massive-radio-array-extraterrestrial-civilizations.html

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