Tag Archives: seti

Is the Interstellar Space Object Emitting Radio Signals?

Oumuamua Asteroid

It’s a long shot, but scientists are about to listen very closely for radio signals from our solar system’s first known interstellar visitor

     Ever since its discovery in mid-October as it passed by Earth already outbound from our solar system, the mysterious object dubbed ‘Oumuamua (Hawaiian for “first messenger”) has left scientists utterly perplexed. Zooming down almost perpendicularly
By Lee Billings
Scientific American
12-11-17

inside Mercury’s orbit at tens of thousands of kilometers per hour—too fast for our star’s gravity to catch—‘Oumuamua appeared to have been dropped in on our solar system from some great interstellar height, picking up even more speed on a slingshot-like loop around the sun before soaring away for parts unknown. It is now already halfway to Jupiter, too far for a rendezvous mission and rapidly fading from the view of Earth’s most powerful telescopes. … this Wednesday at 3 p.m. Eastern time, the Breakthrough Listen project will aim the West Virgina-based 100-meter Green Bank Telescope at ‘Oumuamua for 10 hours of observations in a wide range of radio frequencies, scanning the object across its entire rotation in search of any signals. Breakthrough Listen is part of billionaire Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Initiatives program, a collection of lavishly-funded efforts aiming to uncover evidence of life elsewhere in the universe. Other projects include Breakthrough Starshot, which intends to develop and launch interstellar probes, as well as Breakthrough Watch, which would use large telescopes to study exoplanets for signs of life.

[…]

If ‘Oumuamua is in fact artificial, the reasoning goes, it might be transmitting or at least leaking radio waves.

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Details About Interstellar Space Object | VIDEO

Details About Interstellar Space Object

     New data reveal that the interstellar asteroid that recently zipped through our solar system is rocky, cigar-shaped, and has a somewhat reddish hue. It’s the first confirmed object from another star observed in our solar system, and was discovered Oct. 19 by the University of
NASA
11-24-17

Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope team, funded by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program. The telescope team named it ‘Oumuamua (oh MOO-uh MOO-uh) – Hawaiian for “a messenger from afar arriving first.” The unusually-shaped asteroid, which is up to a quarter mile long and perhaps 10 times as long as it is wide, may provide new clues into how other solar systems formed.

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Rare Interstellar Traveler To Be Probed for Life

Oumuamua Asteroid

     Our solar system has a visitor. It’s cylindrical, dark and reddish, a quarter-mile long. The object won’t be staying. This fall, astronomers announced that the thing came blazing into our neck of the galaxy at speeds of up to 196,000 mph. It is now headed away as quickly as it came.
By Ben Guarino
The Washington Post
12-12-17

The object’s trajectory is so strange and its speeds are so blistering that it probably did not originate from within our solar system. Its discoverers concluded that the object is a rare interstellar traveler from beyond our solar system, the first object of its kind observed by humans.

[…]

Some scientists, though they are swift to say ‘Oumuamua is probably natural, have not yet ruled out more extraordinary origins. “The possibility that this object is, in fact, an artificial object — that it is a spaceship, essentially — is a remote possibility,” Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Research Center, told The Washington Post on Monday.

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Phoning E.T.: Message Sent to Nearby Planet That Could Host Life

Artist’s Illustration of the GJ 273 System
Artist’s illustration of the GJ 273 system, which consists of a red dwarf star and two known planets, one of which may be capable of supporting life.
Credit: Danielle Futselaar/METI

      If there are any intelligent aliens in the GJ 273 system, they can expect to hear from us about a dozen years from now.

Last month, scientists and artists beamed a message to GJ 273, a red

By Mike Wall
Space.com
11-16-17

dwarf also known as Luyten’s star that lies 12.36 light-years from Earth, project team members revealed today (Nov. 16). Luyten’s star hosts two known planets, one of which, GJ 273b, may be capable of supporting life as we know it.

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Not Your Typical Mainstream Media Yuck-fest: Newsweek Special Edition on the Search for Alien Life

Alejandro Rojas has a short description of the recent special edition of Newsweek. Here’s his first paragraph:

Newsweek recently released a special edition magazine titled Life Beyond Earth? The Mission to Find the Answer, and while one might expect it to be dominated by stories about NASA’s search for extraterrestrial microbes, or the SETI Institutes search for extraterrestrial radio signals, instead it is full of information about topics such as UFO investigations and alien abductions. That may make some of our readers cringe in fear of ridicule, but the stories are balanced and largely treat the topics positively.

Click through to read the rest of Alejandro’s post — and get the issue!

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New mysterious signals detected by search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) project

New unidentified signals from deep space have been detected by the Breakthrough Listen project, an attempt to detect evidence of an extraterrestrial civilization. Similar signals have been detected before, but more signals than ever were recorded recently, and, according to the Breakthrough Listen project, an intelligent extraterrestrial civilization has not been ruled out as a potential source.

The type of signals recently observed are called fast radio bursts (FRBs). They are extremely short bursts, but also extremely bright. Most of the FRBs detected thus far have been singular events, which is not so mysterious. Scientists often discover mysterious radio transmissions, but they are typically due to cosmic events. What makes the newly discovered signals mysterious is that they repeat, unlike a cosmic event which sends out one large signal when the event takes place.

FRB 121102 was discovered on November 2, 2012, giving it its name. In 2015, it was found that FRB 121102 repeats, then in 2016 it was traced back to a galaxy billions of light years away. However, scientists know of nothing in that area which would be creating a repeating signal.

On August 26 of this year, scientists with Breakthrough Listen used the Green Bank Telescope to observe FRB 121102. They recorded ten 30-minutes scans and detected 15 bursts. This may not sound like much, but up until this point there had been less than two dozen FRBs recorded.

The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Radio Telescope (GBT) focuses 2.3 acres of radio light. It is 485ft tall, nearly as tall as the nearby mountains and much taller than pine trees in the national forest. The telescope is in a valley of the Allegheny mountains to shield the observations from radio interference. (Credit: National Radio Astronomy Observatory)

The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Radio Telescope (GBT) focuses 2.3 acres of radio light. It is 485ft tall, nearly as tall as the nearby mountains and much taller than pine trees in the national forest. The telescope is in a valley of the Allegheny mountains to shield the observations from radio interference. (Credit: National Radio Astronomy Observatory)

So what could these FRBs be?

“Several explanations for FRBs have been suggested,” explains a recent article in Newsweek. “One is a cataclysmic event, such as a neutron star collapsing into a black hole. But such an event would produce only one burst and therefore does not explain the repeating pattern of FRB 121102. Another possible explanation is that they are coming from a young, highly magnetized neutron star, but so far nothing like this has been detected in this region of space.”

After acknowledging the mystery of the discovery, Newsweek goes on to conclude, “Despite widespread speculation, the possibility of the signals coming from an advanced alien civilization has been largely ruled out.”

Of course, not everyone agrees. A recent article in New Scientist covers some ideas scientists have come up with which would include potential alien sources for the signals.

Breakthrough Listen is part of what is called the Breakthrough Initiative. It is financed by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner. While Musk, Bezos and Bigelow have decided to spend their fortunes on building spacecraft and/or habitats for humans to get to and inhabit space, Milner has decided to look for aliens.

Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking announcing the $100 million Breakthrough Initiative in London. (Photo via Breakthrough Initiative)

Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking announcing the $100 million Breakthrough Initiative in London in 2015. (Photo via Breakthrough Initiative)

There are thee parts to the Breakthrough Initiative. The first two announced were Listen and Message. The first aimed at listening for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations, much like what the SETI Institute is known for. The second, Breakthrough Message, entailed a $1 million prize for the creation of messages to send to space. However, the messages will not be sent, probably because Stephen Hawking, an associate of the initiative, has expressed concern about what will happen if aliens find out we are here.

The third, Breakthrough Starshot, plans to send hundreds of tiny spaceships to the closest star system, Alpha Centauri, to look for signs of life. These spacecraft would largely consist of sails that are pushed along by lasers here on Earth. Once they reach their destination, the little spacecraft will have a few hours to record video and whatever other telemetry they will be able to obtain. The data will then be sent back to earth via lasers. However, because we are talking about such vast distances, the data will take four years to reach Earth, even at the speed of light.

Artist depiction of Breakthrough Startshot. (Credit: Breakthrough Initiatives)

Artist depiction of Breakthrough Startshot. (Credit: Breakthrough Initiatives)

Coincidentally, or not, the New Scientist article explains that this type of spacecraft could be responsible for the FRBs.

The article posits:

…maybe they are using these powerful radio beams to power light sails, which push spacecraft along by bouncing light off a large, reflective sheet. A sail that requires a beam as powerful as an FRB would be much bigger than any we’ve ever considered making on Earth. Such an alien light sail could carry almost a million tonnes – in contrast, the International Space Station only weighs about 420 tonnes.

If there were many extraterrestrial civilizations with colossal alien cruise ships, there could be many powerful radio beams sweeping through the sky, each following the path of a sail. When the beam’s path intersects with the Earth’s, we’d see a bright but fleeting burst of radio waves.

The Breakthrough Initiative’s press release includes this bit of speculation In their recent announcement on this latest discovery. According to the Breakthrough Initiative press release, “Possible explanations for FRBs range from outbursts from rotating neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields, to more speculative ideas that they are directed energy sources used by extraterrestrial civilizations to power spacecraft.”

So, in the end, we can not be sure what is causing the FRBs, but an alien civilization is not being ruled out. At least not by everyone, especially the Breakthrough Initiative.

A technical summary of Breakthrough Listen’s discovery has been releases in an Astronomer’s Telegram, and will be released in further detail in an upcoming article in a scientific journal.

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Looking for Space Aliens a Bit Closer to Home?

Looking for Space Aliens a Bit Closer to Home?

Astronomers believe it’s possible that advanced beings lived in or visited our solar system eons ago — and perhaps left behind certain ‘technosignatures.’

     We’re used to the idea of searching for space aliens by scanning the heavens for their radio signals — after all, that’s what Jodie Foster’s character does in the 1997 movie Contact and the way alien hunters commonly go about their work.
By NBC MACH
8-29-17

But some scientists think the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) shouldn’t be limited to far-flung star systems. Rather, they argue, we should consider the possibility that evidence of intelligent aliens might exist here on Earth, or on one or more of our nearest neighbors in the solar system.

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STARSHOT: INSIDE THE LUDICROUS PLAN TO SEND A SPACECRAFT TO OUR NEIGHBOR STAR

As a species, we have made magnificent strides in robotic space exploration in the past decade. From exploring Pluto close-up for the first time to discovering our solar system is rife with underground liquid oceans, we now understand our little neighborhood of planets and moons better than ever before. It’s time to start talking about how we are […]

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Finding Proof of Space Aliens, What Happens Next?

Finding Proof of Space Aliens, What Happens Next?

Protocols for responding to the discovery of extraterrestrial
intelligence have been created, but they might not be followed.

     First came the suggestion that an “alien megastructure” had been observed around KIC 8462852, a.k.a. Tabby’s Star. Months later, people were talking about a signal seen by a Russian telescope that some thought was transmitted from the environs of a stellar cousin of
By Seth Shostak
NBC News
8-1-17

the sun. And not long after that, the Cyclopean Arecibo antenna in Puerto Rico reported weird signals that seemed to come from the dwarf star Ross 128, a scant 11 light-years away.

[…]

These three claims purporting to show the existence of aliens haven’t panned out. But what happens if some future claim does? What preparations are in place to deal with the discovery of a radio signal or a laser flash that would prove beyond doubt that we have cosmic compeers? Does the government have a plan? Does anyone?

[…]

… Back in 1989, when a now-defunct NASA program to search for extraterrestrial intelligence was gaining steam, protocols were drafted to spell out best practices in case the search proved successful. These were later updated and streamlined by the International Academy of Astronautics SETI Permanent Committee. (Click here to see the revised protocols.)

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If They Aliens Discover Us Before We Discover Them (Redux)

Talking the walk …

     Don’t know about you, but I’m loving those mystery lights on Ceres as NASA’s surveillance probe, Dawn, bears down on the biggest chunk of real estate in the asteroid belt. And not because of the prospects for discovering alien activity – they’re remote, at best – but because of the opportunity to witness, again, the ritual disconnect that characterizes institutional science whenever The Great Taboo legitimately insinuates itself into a news cycle.

Let’s go back a few years when, after half a century of logging zilch in the Great ET Radio Signal Experiment, SETI pioneer Jill Tarter proposed


By Billy Cox
De Void
6-24-15

a new name for their endeavors, the Search for Extraterrestrial Technology (SETT). This was a tacit grudging concession that maybe radio astronomers had been working with a flawed model. In 2011, the International Journal of Astrobiology published a paper by astrophysicists Martin Elvis and Duncan Forgan proposing an even more specific tack, that maybe Earthlings ought to consider scanning the asteroid belt for evidence of ET “macro-engineering projects.” Translation: mining operations. Made sense. After all, they noted, asteroids are repositories for raw material like gold, platinum and silver, the kind of stuff you’d likely need to repair or refuel extended planetary missions.

And, as Forgan would hypothesize two years later in the IJA, ET wouldn’t even have to bend the known laws of physics to reach the rocky debris zone between Jupiter and Mars, no matter which part of the Milky Way he/she/it came from. Upon crunching the numbers, Forgan and a mathematician hypothesized that robotic technologies could have mapped this galaxy well below light speeds, in about 10 million years. On the cosmic scale of time, that’s no big deal.

So here’s what’s going on. In 2007, NASA hurls an unmanned vehicle toward the asteroid belt to look for clues to the formation of our solar system. Destination: “dwarf planets” Vesta and Ceres. Dawn enters a 14-month mapping orbit over Vesta in 2011, then moves on toward the bigger prize. In February, as it closes to within 29,000 miles of Ceres, Dawn’s cameras detect something totally off the charts – lights on the surface. Their luminosity doesn’t appear to be significantly affected by different sun angles. Two months and 25,000 miles closer, their intensity is still unblinking. Planetary scientists are stumped; at the Jet Propulsion Lab’s website, PR flacks do a very savvy thing by letting visitors vote on the most likely suspects: “volcano,” “geyser,” “salt deposit,” “ice,” “rock,” and “other.” Wonder what “other” could be. Hmm. Anyway, we’ll get an even better peek by summer’s end, when Dawn dips to within 900 miles of the surface.

No matter what those lights are all about, this sort of suspense is cool. Talk about a teaching opportunity for schools.

Now let’s review some of NASA’s recent headline-grabbing statements. In 2014, given our ongoing exoplanet transiting searches and the impending exploration of more local worlds like Europa, space agency scientists predicted Earthlings will discover ET life within 20 years. That forecast was reiterated just last week at the Astrobiology Science Conference in Chicago. In fact, NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate (there’s a mouthful) and former astronaut John Grunsfeld suggested that ET civilizations might already have detected us, the same way we’re locating and confirming the existence of deep-space planets. Quote:

“We put atmospheric signatures that guarantee someone with a large telescope 20 light years away could detect us. If there is life out there, intelligent life, they’ll know we’re here.”

Left unsaid, what none in that sheltered crowd wants to contemplate: And if they discover us before we discover them, maybe they’re already a lot closer than we think. But of course, there was no room in Chicago for a discussion of UFOs. That would be a little too declasse, like farting in church. Oh, and just to make sure nobody got terribly excited, coverage of last week’s Windy City pow-wow also included a canned statement from NASA chief scientist Ellen Stefan. In April, during a discussion about Mars, she drew distinctions between the discovery of biological life and some other silly alternative like, well, the 2011 peer-reviewed paper’s “targeted asteroid mining” scenario. “We are not talking about little green men,” she insisted. “We are talking about little microbes.”

Stofan could’ve said “intelligent life.” But she went for the gag line instead. Knowing full well how much everybody loves microbes.

Hey, no one wants to look like an idiot as we approach the biggest discovery of all time, wherever that may be. The solution to the Ceres lights will likely fall far short of little green men. But the language we employ as we draw closer to the inevitability doesn’t inspire much confidence; it suggests we’re deeply conflicted in our enthusiasm for confirming The Other. Or at least the people at the top of NASA appear to be. Fortunately, we can console ourselves with the knowledge that science and politics never mix.

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