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The Search for Alien Life is Getting a Major Boost

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Scientists are doubling down on the efforts of searching for alien life within the universe. Researchers at the SETI Institute announced that they are working on developing new techniques to locate signs of extraterrestrial life. These techniques will allow them to detect and spot “technosignatures” that could potentially indicate the presence of an advanced civilization. 

To power this vast search of the expansive cosmos, SETI will be utilizing the Very Large Array telescope in New Mexico as its primary search system. “The SETI Institute will develop and install an interface on the VLA, permitting unprecedented access to the rich data stream continuously produced by the telescope as it scans the sky,” said Andrew Siemion, principal investigator of Breakthrough Listen, and Bernard M. Oliver, Chair for SETI, in a statement. “This interface will allow us to conduct a powerful, wide-area SETI survey that will be vastly more complete than any previous such search.”

Photo by Matheo JBT on Unsplash

The question of whether we’re alone in the universe has long been considered one of the most compelling questions in the history of science, spawning countless theories, debates, and discussions. With a powerful new system such as this, the search for answers will be getting a major boost. 

Within the new data set of areas being explored by SETI will be the study of 20 nearby stars that aligned with the plane of Earth’s orbit. Other peculiar areas of observation include radio emissions from the region surrounding the central part of the Milky Way galaxy, where a 4-million-solar-mass black hole resides.

While the data that has been pouring in has yet to bear evidence of extraterrestrial life, there is still much to be processed and analyzed. Researchers are certain, however, that focusing the telescope array at the center of the galaxy will provide the greatest chance for detecting intelligent life. “It is there that an advanced civilization might somehow harness the energy of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy to signal its existence,” said Siemion. 

The 10-year, $100 million program is backed by Israeli-Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, who says: “Now, as we are getting a lot of data, we can do real science and, with making this data available to [the] general public, so can anyone who wants to know the answer to this deep question.” 

One particularly strange phenomenon being explored by scientists is that of fast radio bursts, which are detected as originating from galaxy’s that are hundreds of millions of light-years away. In February, scientists discovered a mysterious FRB that repeated a pattern every 16 days, causing many to hypothesize that they were being sent from an intelligent civilization. The phenomenon is still not understood very well, but with SETI’s recent push in the search for extraterrestrial life, perhaps we will find some answers soon. 

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