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Thread: SETI: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

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    Default SETI: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence


    SETI project: We're listening again, ET

    By Paul Rogers

    progers@mercurynews.com

    Posted: 08/11/2011 03:32:05 PM PDT
    Updated: 08/11/2011 03:40:49 PM PDT


    E.T., you can phone home again.
    Forty-two radio telescope dishes near Mount Shasta will again start listening for sounds of intelligent life in the universe this fall after donors -- including actress Jodie Foster -- came up with more than $200,000 to save the Mountain View-based SETI program, made famous by the movie "Contact."


    The Allen Telescope Array was shut down in April when the SETI (Search of Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute ran short of of money for the project.



    The non-profit organization, which was founded in 1985 and funded in the 1990s by Hewlett Packard co-founder David Packard, said the $210,000 in donations it has raised this summer will allow the radio antennas to be turned back on by September. They will be re-calibrated and operated 24 hours a day through the end of 2011 while the organization continues to raise funds.


    "My reaction is gratification and astonishment. Economic times are tough," said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. "But people still think this very fundamental question -- is there somebody out there as intelligent or more so than us? -- is important and worth doing.


    "There is something very quintessentially American about it," Shostak added. "There's something in our culture about being willing to try long-shot but high-stakes experiments in the name of exploration."


    The idea of monitoring radio waves from space to look for patterns that could indicate intelligent life has been around for more than 100 years. Pioneering work was done by Cornell astronomer Frank Drake, now a Santa Cruz County resident, starting in the early 1960s. Carl Sagan and other researchers were advocates, but for years its adherents had problems obtaining significant time on telescopes to do their work and were at times derided by other astronomers.


    In 2007, after Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen donated $30 million, the Allen Array was constructed and turned on. The project, the largest radio telescope array in the world devoted primarily to SETI research, was originally a joint effort of the SETI Institute and the UC-Berkeley Radio Astronomy Laboratory.


    But this year, UC pulled out of the arrangement, after state budget cuts and the loss of several National Science Foundation grants reduced funding.


    The SETI Institute has 140 employees and an $18 million annual budget, which comes from private donors, NASA and the National Science Foundation. It works on a range of topics, including studies of Jupiter's moons, the search for water on Mars and others.


    Running the Allen Telescope Array at full staffing of about 10 people costs $2.5 million a year. The SETI Institute is in discussion with the U.S. Air Force to use the telescopes to help track space debris and satellites.


    The hope, said SETI Institute CEO Tom Pierson, in a letter to supporters this spring, is to raise $5 million so that SETI astronomer Jill Tarter can lead a new effort to point the radio dishes at the 1,235 new "exoplanets" that were announced in February by NASA's Kepler mission.


    Those planets are newly discovered planets in other solar systems, many of which could be rocky, and located in the "habitable zone" -- not too close or too far from other suns so that they could support water, and perhaps life.


    Actor Jodie Foster played Tarter in the 1997 movie "Contact." Adapted from a book by Sagan, the film explored what might happen if SETI researchers found a pattern amid the background noise of the universe that indicated intelligent life, similar to the radio and TV signals that have been broadcast from earth for the past century.


    "In Carl Sagan's book/movie 'Contact,' a radio signal from a distant star system ends humanity's cosmic isolation and changes our world," Foster wrote in a message with her donation. "The Allen Telescope Array could turn science fiction into science fact, but only if it is actively searching the skies. I support the effort to bring the array out of hibernation."


    Other prominent donors this summer include Larry Niven, author of the "Ringworld" science fiction series, and Bill Anders, a former Apollo 8 astronaut.
    "It is absolutely irresponsible of the human race not to be searching for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence," Anders wrote with his donation.


    In addition to monitoring electromagnetic waves, the Allen array also studies magnetic fields in the Milky Way, hydrogen gas patterns that could offer information about dark energy, and black holes, pulsars and star formation.


    Bob Sanders, a spokesman for UC-Berkeley, said new technology developed at the site can be used to help link large numbers of radio antennas together at other observatories in the world. Even though the $210,283 in new donations is only a fraction of the funding needed, the news is positive, he said.


    "It's a great resource up there," he said of the site, which has very little interference from radio stations or power lines. "It's a very radio quiet area and a great research location."


    Contact Paul Rogers at 408-920-5045.

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    Default Re: SETI: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence



    Somedays it seems it is harder and harder to find intelligent life on Earth.
    "Still waitin on the Judgement Day"

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    Default Re: SETI: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

    Amateur astronomers recruited to find evidence of E.T. in outer space

    By Claudia Cowan
    Published May 22, 2012
    FoxNews.com



    • Allen Telescope Array located in Hat Creek, California. (FNC)



    The search for alien intelligence is an enduring human endeavor.


    Many scientists say it's just a matter of time before we find evidence it exists, and now, anyone can get in on the hunt -- as long as they have a computer.


    "All you need is Internet access, and the desire to help out," says Seth Shostak, senior astronomer with SETI, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence Institute.


    SETI is recruiting citizen scientists to help them unscramble billions of radio signals and isolate those coming from Earth or space satellites, from sources quite literally out of this world.


    "We're looking for a signal that simply says one thing: there's somebody out there clever enough to have built a radio transmitter," says Shostak.


    The signals are being gathered by 42 massive radio telescopes nestled in the rolling hills of Shasta County, Calif. The Allen Telescope Array is aimed at star systems that scientists have determined could contain Earth-like planets. The problem is there are just too many signals for SETI's computers to analyze alone. Now, the data gathered by the telescopes is being posted online, available for free to amateur astronomers -- or anyone else -- interested in helping them find E.T.


    "One of the appeals of SETIlive.org, particularly for kids, is that this is science everybody can understand," says Shostak. While many people may not fully grasp particle theory or quantum mechanics, he says, "when you talk about looking for proof that E.T. is out there, everybody gets that, and anyone can judge signals on a screen" to see if there's a regular pattern.


    Citizen scientists are vital for another reason as well. SETI scientists say their computer algorithms can't discern anomalies as well as the human eye. With SETILive.org, space enthusiasts like Ellen Schwartz can identify odd patterns, report her findings, and even engage with fellow volunteers in the online chat room.


    "It just seemed like a fun way I could use my computer and a little bit of volunteer time to help the effort to possibly detect some signals from outer space," says Schwartz. "My hope is not so much that I'm the finder, but that we -- that humanity -- finds out there are other beings out there, hopefully peaceful ones."


    A huge fan of the 1997 sci-fi movie "Contact," Schwartz says the prospect of actually finding evidence of advanced civilizations in outer space "is just so tantalizing."


    In just a few months, nearly 60,000 volunteers have examined millions of pieces of data. If enough people identify the same mysterious pattern, the telescopes will take a closer look, and maybe -- just maybe -- confirm what alien enthusiasts have been saying all along: We are not alone.




    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/...#ixzz1vbglxNlp
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    Default Re: SETI: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

    I personally have no DOUBT we have already heard them
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    Default Re: SETI: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

    UK astronomers to co-ordinate their search for alien signals

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    The scientists believe it is time UK effort was properly co-ordinated




    British scientists are to make a concerted effort to look for alien life among the stars.


    Academics from 11 institutions have set up a network to co-ordinate their Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (Seti).


    The English Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees, will act as patron.


    The group is asking funding agencies for a small - about 1m a year - sum of money to support listening time on radio telescopes and for data analysis.


    It would also help pay for research that considered new ways to try to find aliens.


    Currently, most Seti work is done in the US and is funded largely through private donation.


    UK Seti Research Network (UKSRN) co-ordinator Alan Penny said there was important expertise in Britain keen to play its part.


    "If we had one part in 200 - half a percent of the money that goes into astronomy at the moment - we could make an amazing difference. We would become comparable with the American effort," the University of St Andrews researcher told BBC News.


    "I don't know whether [aliens] are out there, but I'm desperate to find out. It's quite possible that we're alone in the Universe. And think about the implications of that: if we're alone in the Universe then the whole purpose in the Universe is in us. If we're not alone, that's interesting in a very different way."


    The UKSRN held its first get-together at this week's National Astronomy Meeting.


    British researchers and facilities have had occasional involvement in Seti projects down the years.


    The most significant was the use in 1998-2003 of Jodrell bank, and its 76m Lovell radio telescope, in Project Phoenix. This was a search for signals from about 1,000 nearby stars. Organised - and paid for - by the Seti Institute in California, it ultimately found nothing.


    Jodrell has since been updated, linking it via fibre optics into a 217km-long array with six other telescopes across England. Known as eMerlin, this system would be a far more powerful tool to scan the skies for alien transmissions.


    And Jodrell's Tim O'Brien said Seti work could be done quite easily without disturbing mainstream science on the array.


    "You could do serendipitous searches. So if the telescopes were studying quasars, for example, we could piggy-back off that and analyse the data to look for a different type of signal - not the natural astrophysical signal that the quasar astronomer was interested in, but something in the noise that one might imagine could be associated with aliens. This approach would get you Seti research almost for free," the Jodrell associate director explained.


    "There are billions of planets out there. It would be remiss of us not to at least have half an ear open to any signals that might be being sent to us."


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    Tim O'Brien gives a tour of the 'alien signal' control centre



    In addition to eMerlin, the UK is also heavily involved in Lofar - a European Low Frequency Array that incorporates new digital techniques to survey wide areas of the sky all at once.


    And Jodrell itself is the management HQ for the forthcoming Square Kilometre Array, a giant next-generation radio observatory to be built in South Africa and Australia. It will have incredible power, not only to screen out interference from TV and phone signals here on Earth, but to resolve very faint signals at vast distances. It has been said the SKA could detect an airport radar on an alien world 50 light-years away.


    One attraction of Seti is the great potential for "citizen science" involvement.


    The Seti@Home screensaver has proved to be a big hit with the public, using downtime on home and business PCs to analyse radio telescope data for alien signals. The UK has a strong history in this area also with projects such as Galaxy Zoo, which sees citizen scientists help professional astronomers sift and classify the colossal numbers of images we now have of galaxy structures.


    Cannot play media. You do not have the correct version of the flash player. Download the correct version






    Sir Martin said there was huge public interest in the Seti question and some modest state funding for the area would probably get wide support.


    "I'd put it this way: if you were to ask all the people coming out of a science fiction movie whether they'd be happy if some small fraction of the tax revenues from that movie were hypothecated to try to determine if any of what they'd just seen was for real, I'm sure most would say 'yes'," he told BBC News.


    The issue is whether UK astronomy, currently operating under very tight fiscal constraints, can afford any spare cash for a field of endeavour that has completely unknown outcomes.


    Sheffield University's Paul Crowther doubted the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the main funders of UK astronomy, would be able to support UKSRN.
    "Continued flat-cash science budget awards are constantly eroding STFC's buying powers, causing the UK to withdraw from existing productive facilities such as the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope.


    "[British astronomy] faces the prospect of a reduced volume of research grants, and participation in future high-impact facilities [eg the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope] is threatened. I would be shocked if STFC's advisory panels rated the support of UKSRN higher than such scientifically compelling competition."


    Dr Penny argued Seti could make a strong case, and that his group would try to get research council backing.


    "The human race wants to explore, wants to find things out, and if we stop trying we're on the road to decay," he said.
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