Breakthrough in Astronomy: “Many Civilizations Out There” As The Search For Alien Life Increases | Science | news
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SETI searches for extraterrestrial intelligence and listens to radio or laser signals from space. It is the most widespread form of alien hunting that was not used until the early 1900s with the advent of radio at the earliest. The problem with SETI, especially for those astronomers seeking extraterrestrial life, is that it is a waiting game: you have to listen patiently and hope to encounter a glimmer of signals from the stars.
METI, Messaging Alien Intelligence, reverses this process. Instead of paying attention to foreign signals, researchers like the astrobiologist Dr. Douglas Vakoch, President of METI, sending powerful and deliberate messages to nearby stars.
The goal is to create a response that Dr. Vakoch is extremely hopeful that the technology will eventually work.
However, he admitted that his main concern is that there are indeed “many other civilizations out there” who may never pick up on our signals.
He says these distant civilizations could make the same mistakes as us.
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He told BBC Science Focus Magazine, “My great concern is that there are indeed many other civilizations, but they are doing exactly what we are.
“You have these robust SETI programs and everyone is listening but nobody says hello.
“And so this is our effort to join the galactic conversation.”
METI is not entirely new, although it is groundbreaking in some ways.
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Astronomers have previously sent sporadic messages.
The most famous was broadcast from what was then the world’s largest radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
To show that intelligent life forms are at home on earth, a three-minute message was sent into the universe in 1974.
The message was in binary format and sent the numbers one through ten, along with a description of the chemical elements that are important for life on earth in the form of ordinal numbers.
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There was also a description of human DNA, how we look, how tall we are, and how many people were on earth at that time.
Any being who came across the message would also have learned what our solar system looks like and what the telescope that sends the message looks like.
Dr. Vakoch said, “It was quite ambitious to cram a lot of information into three minutes.”
Of course, for any alien who comes across this data, it could have been what we call a “brain dump”.
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So send Dr. Vackoch and his team at METI provide shorter, clearer, much more concise and understandable messages to the galaxy.
He said: “My concern about sending everything is that maybe nothing is understandable.
“So we’re going the opposite strategy and instead of sending an encyclopedia, we’re sending a primer that is really aimed at alien scientists.”
Another problem with the Arecibo telescope is the type of time as well as the structure of the machine.
If at some point his message reaches a target recipient, scientists on Earth will not receive a response for 550,000 years. This is the distance between our planet and the star system it was aimed at.
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And because of the positioning of Arecibo, which is built into the earth’s surface, it can only send a message 10 degrees on either side and straight from there.
This means that the only real target was a globular cluster called M13 – about 25,000 light years away.
Betting on a single star cluster when there are millions of others is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack.
Dr. Vakoch and his team hope to change this by diversifying their messages, but also by repeatedly sending more signals until a response is finally received.
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