Using the Irish LOFAR telescope and its counterpart in Onsala, Sweden, the team - led by Professor Evan Keane, Associate Professor of Radio Astronomy in Trinity's School of Physics, and Head of the Irish LOFAR Telescope - plans to monitor millions of star systems.
Scientists have been searching for extraterrestrial radio signals for well over 60 years. Many of these have been carried out using single observatories which limits the ability to identify signals from the haze of terrestrial interference on Earth. Much of the effort has focused on frequencies above 1 GHz because the single-dish telescopes employed operate at these frequencies.
Now, a new collaboration led by Trinity College Dublin, with the Breakthrough Listen team and Onsala Space Observatory in Sweden, is perfecting a multi-site, multi-telescope technique that allows them to search at much lower frequencies of 110 - 190 MHz.
The Breakthrough Listen programme is the most comprehensive search for technologically advanced extraterrestrial life, developing dedicated instruments at the Irish and Swedish LOFAR stations. Using multiple sites has the major benefit that it is much less likely to provide a "false positive" signal; such signals arise due to interference from many human sources on Earth.
The team has just published details of their method and their ongoing search in the Astronomical Journal They have already scanned 1.6 million star systems flagged as interesting targets by the Gaia and TESS space missions, run by ESA and NASA respectively. So far these searches have drawn a blank.
But the search has only just begun...
Prof. Keane said: "In the last 50 years evidence has steadily mounted that the constituents and conditions necessary for life are relatively common in the Universe, which begs one of life's greatest unanswered questions: are we really alone?
"To some people the 'Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence, or SETI' might seem like something from a movie, but it has been a scientific pursuit for decades, and for a host of very good reasons. With this project we are basing our search on the common assumption that civilisations elsewhere in the Universe may employ similar technologies to those developed on Earth. As a result radio frequencies are a logical domain for conducting SETI surveys due to the widespread use of telecommunications and radar and our access to next-gen radio telescopes offers a great chance for a deep dive into the Universe."
Owen Johnson, PhD Candidate in Trinity's School of Physics, is the first author of the journal article, and the first Irish person to ever undertake a PhD on the topic of SETI. He added:
"What makes surveys like this one truly captivating is the fact that we're pushing these telescopes to their absolute limits, directing them towards substantial portions of the sky. As a result, we have the exciting possibility of discovering all sorts of wild and wondrous phenomena during this process and if we're very fortunate, even encountering our cosmic neighbours.
"LOFAR is soon to undergo a staged series of upgrades across all stations in the array across Europe, which will allow an even broader SETI at ranges of 15 - 240 MHz. We have billions of star systems to explore and will be relying on some machine learning techniques to sift through the immense volume of data.
"That in itself is interesting - it would be fairly ironic if humankind discovered alien life by using artificial intelligence."
|Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters|
UK and Axiom sign agreement on plans for historic human spaceflight mission
CRS-29 mission flies research to the Space Station
India launches key test for manned orbital mission
NASA improves GIANT optical navigation technology for future missions
'No prospects': Russians slowly leaving legendary spaceport city
SpaceX Achieves Back-to-Back Starlink Satellite Launches to Expand Global Internet Coverage
UK plans space mission after striking deal with US firm
New US rocket Vulcan Centaur set to launch on December 24
Sampling unique bedrock at the margin unit
Year 2075: Martian rovers saved from cyber attack
Mystery of the Martian core solved
Short but Sweet; Sols 3987-3988
China discloses tasks of Shenzhou-17 crewed space mission
Next-generation rocket for China's manned space missions on track
Final rehearsal for Shenzhou XVII flight completed
Chinese sci-fi fans over the moon at Chengdu Worldcon
Fugro SpAARC's operations set to grow with new funding from Western Australian Govt|
French Space Days India 2023 celebrates Indo-French collaboration
Follow NASA's Starling Swarm in Real Time
Launch of Ovzon 3 targeted for as soon as December 2023
Researchers developing 'revolutionary' multi-material for light-based 3D printing
Tightbeam tech set to revolutionize Global Marine Internet through Aalyria-HICO Partnership
NASA's First Two-way End-to-End Laser Communications System
Light-powered multi-level memory tech revolutionizes data processing
ET phone Dublin? Astrophysicists scan the Galaxy for signs of life
Exoplanet-informed research helps search for radio technosignatures
Webb detects tiny quartz crystals in clouds of hot gas giant
Extreme habitats: Microbial life in Old Faithful Geyser
How NASA is protecting Europa Clipper from space radiation
NASA's Webb Discovers New Feature in Jupiter's Atmosphere
Plot thickens in hunt for ninth planet
Large mound structures on Kuiper belt object Arrokoth may have common origin
|Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters|