Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

Last fall, a Sophia Sheikh’s colleague posted a message on her group’s Slack channel, where members Listen to the breakthrough Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) collaborators discuss the radio telescope signals they are analyzing for possible signs of communication from space. Much of what they have analyzed so far has clearly been due to radio interference on Earth, scientists are studying countless works of human technology and the frequency range at which they emit signals. But one seemed more optimistic.

The message was posted by a student studying radio telescope data which was originally taken to observe the stellar flames emitted by Proxima Centauri. He made a single unusual signal, and the sheikh did not know what to do with it. “It had a lot of features that we would associate with a signal coming from space,” he says The signal detected near 982 MHz, called “blc1” for “Breakthrough Listen Candidate 1”, intrigued them from the beginning, as it came from a telescope trained in our own nearby stellar system to host a habitable world. Can And it looks narrow in the electromagnetic spectrum, suggesting that it was generated by technology. But Of which Technology?

Collaborating with other astronomers, Sheikh and his team began a series of experiments on signals – radio waves measured at different frequencies that stood above the more ubiquitous sound, such as the faint sound of a remote radio station, distinguished from static. They wanted to determine if the signal was something in the sky, and they compared it to the radio interference they encountered at other frequencies. And in a pair New Study Published in the journal this week Nature Astronomy, They published their bad news: it was a false warning. The tantalizing signal did not come from space above all else, but originated from earthing technology like the others.

“This was the most promising signal we’ve ever received with the Breakthrough Listen Project,” said Sheikh, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of a research paper. But, he says, their year-long search for the study of mysterious signals and their origins was “the most exciting investigation of my career so far,” and has helped scientists develop their tools as they prepare to analyze future signals.

Breakthrough Listen, a research program that began in 2015, uses data from radio telescopes in Australia, West Virginia and California to listen to potential alien signals from nearby stars as part of an ongoing search for extraterrestrial civilization. Because it can be competitive to find time in a radio telescope, it sometimes involves “piggybacking” by stopping others from observing, so that they and other astronomers benefit from the same data.

Proxima Centauri seems to be a good candidate for the search for life outside our solar system. The star is “just” four light-years or about 25 square miles from Earth. It’s close from a cosmic perspective, and it’s within transition distance for a message of intelligent life. In 2016, astronomers confirmed its existence The planets are orbiting the stars, It fuels the hope that alien life may be hospitable. If and when someone sends a space mission to another star, that will probably be their destination. In fact, Breakthrough Starshot The goal of creating a system to fire a powerful laser beam is to send a small spacecraft at high speed to the star’s neighbor, Alpha Centauri, to take pictures and send them back home. (Both Breakthrough Listen and Starshot are funded by billionaire and philanthropist Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Initiatives.)

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