Aliens in the Milky Way?
A new quest for alien life uses radio waves from the core of our galaxy. Pulsars generate narrow-frequency pulses, which humans employ in radar.
These pulses stand out against space’s radio noise, making them an excellent tool to communicate over large distances and an attractive target for extraterrestrial civilization hunters.
In a May 30 Astronomical Journal paper, scientists outlined the alien-hunting approach. The program was tested on known pulsars by Cornell University graduate student Akshay Suresh.
These frequency ranges are roughly a tenth of an FM radio station’s. The approach was used to search Green Bank Telescope data in West Virginia.
“Until now, radio SETI has primarily dedicated its efforts to the search for continuous signals,” said SETI Institute cofounder Vishal Gajjar. “Our analysis illuminates the amazing energy efficiency of a sequence of pulses for interplanetary communication across huge distances. This is the first comprehensive search for these signals.”
Because it’s full of stars and exoplanets, researchers are listening in. Given their favorable position in the center of the galaxy, intelligent aliens at the centre of the Milky Way may transmit signals to many planets.
In a second statement, research co-author Steve Croft, a project scientist with the Breakthrough Listen initiative, noted that narrow bandwidths and repeating patterns are unlikely to occur naturally, making them ideal for aliens to expose themselves.
A 30-minute program searches 1.5 million telescope data samples. The algorithm’s speed will boost future searches, even if researchers didn’t detect any telling indications in their first search.
“Breakthrough Listen captures huge volumes of data, and Akshay’s technique provides a new method to help us search that haystack for needles that could provide tantalizing evidence of advanced extraterrestrial life forms,” Croft said.