In an unprecedented hunt for alien civilizations, astronomers for first time, survey the entire sky using 28 giant radio telescopes. The project is a collaboration between the SETI Institute and one of the world’s most powerful Very Large Arrey (VLA) radio observatories in New Mexico.
Gaining access to all the data collected by the VLA in real time is an important event for scientists who are hunting for extraterrestrial life forms, as well as a sign that this area has “become mainstream”. Moreover, according to BBC News, the search for alien life forms today should be taken seriously.
What might be the first contact with an alien civilization?
The science fiction novel “Contact” by the prominent astronomer and popularizer of science Karl Sagan is the most plausible description of what our first contact with intelligent life forms might be. In 1997, “Contact” was filmed, and starred Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey. In the film, the heroine Foster, a young radio astronomer, spotted a message from aliens, listening to the sky using VLA. In reality, all astronomical operations will continue on VLA, but the data will be duplicated and pass through a supercomputer that will look for sound signals and other signatures.
As Andrew Siemion, director of the SETI Institute for Berkeley, told The Guardian, VLA is used to view the entire sky. According to Tony Beasley, director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which runs the VLA, determining whether we are alone in the universe is one of the most important questions of modern science, and our telescopes can play an important role in finding the answer to it.
At the last conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), SETI researchers introduced the Panoseti prototype, designed to continuously monitor large areas of the sky. If the project receives funding, Panoseti will consist of two geodesic domes covered with half-meter lenses, which will give it the appearance of a giant pair of insect eyes. The ability to simultaneously observe vast areas of the sky would make it a unique device for detecting transient signals, such as the flash of a distant high-power laser. The number of exoplanets detected in the habitable zone is quite large, and this makes the search for an answer to the question of the existence of intelligent life more realistic.
Other researchers are hunting for less intelligent species of alien life. Speaking at the same session at AAAS, Victoria Meadows, head of NASA’s virtual planetary laboratory at the University of Washington, spoke about the observations planned with the James Webb Space Telescope, which will launch next year. Astronomers are now prioritizing the Trappist-1 star system discovered several years ago. According to computer models, the Trappist-1 system is one of the most promising for the search for planets with an atmosphere and temperature that would allow liquid water to exist on the surface.
The search for exoplanets over the past decades has changed everything. We are watching distant worlds, but can someone watch us? The world famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking warned mankind against trying any contact, suggesting that for us such contact would not end in anything good. However, many researchers disagree with this view. In the end, part of a human being is a desire to reach out to the unknown and establish contact with him. So it is possible that sooner or later we will find out the answer to this important question.