From Curtin University AU via Science Alert: “Across 10 Million Stars Not a Single Whisper of Alien Technology”

From Curtin University AU



Science Alert


The Vela supernova remnant. (Harel Boren/PBase, CC BY-SA 4.0).

In a comprehensive search of a patch of the Southern sky, not even a hint of alien technology has been detected at low radio frequencies.

Across at least 10 million stars that populate the Vela region – the deepest and widest survey for extraterrestrial intelligence yet – the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in Australia found none of the technosignatures that might be expected within its range.

Dipole antennas of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope in Mid West Western Australia. Credit: Dragonfly Media.

SKA Murchison Widefield Array, Boolardy station in outback Western Australia, at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO).

However, astronomers Chenoa Tremblay and Steven Tingay from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) say their results aren’t disappointing at all.

Instead, the research shows how easy it is to conduct the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) almost incidentally, while obtaining other astrophysical observations.

SETI is really quite tricky. We don’t really know what kind of technology an alien civilisation could develop, so we base it on what we know – our own technology, and theories. In the case of the MWA, that means radio signals in frequencies similar to FM radio.

Here on Earth, very low frequency radio can “leak” out through the ionosphere – it’s been picked up by our own space probes, as heard in the above audio, recorded by a NASA Polar spacecraft in 1996. More recently, these VLF emissions have been found to be creating a giant bubble around our planet.

If aliens are also producing such signals, and if those signals are powerful enough, researchers believe that we might be able to detect them. However, if we could, it’s not with the MWA, and not in the vicinity of the Vela constellation.

“The MWA is a unique telescope, with an extraordinarily wide field-of-view that allows us to observe millions of stars simultaneously,” Tremblay said.

“We observed the sky around the constellation of Vela for 17 hours, looking more than 100 times broader and deeper than ever before. With this dataset, we found no technosignatures – no sign of intelligent life.”

The constellation of Vela may only seem like a small patch of sky when you’re standing down here looking up, but it’s a lot busier than it appears. It contains the Vela supernova remnant – that’s what Tremblay has been studying, looking specifically at the chemical composition of the cloud in low frequencies.

And the region studied has at least 10 million stars at a variety of distances, a little slice of the Milky Way galaxy, which overall has an estimated number of stars somewhere between 100 and 400 billion (or possibly even higher, depending on whom you ask).

Therefore, it’s not really a huge surprise that no signals were detected.

“As Douglas Adams noted in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, ‘space is big, really big’,” Tingay said.

See the full article here .


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Curtin University (formerly known as Curtin University of Technology and Western Australian Institute of Technology) is an Australian public research university based in Bentley and Perth, Western Australia. The university is named after the 14th Prime Minister of Australia, John Curtin, and is the largest university in Western Australia, with over 58,000 students (as of 2016).

Curtin was conferred university status after legislation was passed by the Parliament of Western Australia in 1986. Since then, the university has been expanding its presence and has campuses in Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai and Mauritius. It has ties with 90 exchange universities in 20 countries. The University comprises five main faculties with over 95 specialists centres. The University formerly had a Sydney campus between 2005 & 2016. On 17 September 2015, Curtin University Council made a decision to close its Sydney campus by early 2017.

Curtin University is a member of Australian Technology Network (ATN), and is active in research in a range of academic and practical fields, including Resources and Energy (e.g., petroleum gas), Information and Communication, Health, Ageing and Well-being (Public Health), Communities and Changing Environments, Growth and Prosperity and Creative Writing.

It is the only Western Australian university to produce a PhD recipient of the AINSE gold medal, which is the highest recognition for PhD-level research excellence in Australia and New Zealand.

Curtin has become active in research and partnerships overseas, particularly in mainland China. It is involved in a number of business, management, and research projects, particularly in supercomputing, where the university participates in a tri-continental array with nodes in Perth, Beijing, and Edinburgh. Western Australia has become an important exporter of minerals, petroleum and natural gas. The Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited the Woodside-funded hydrocarbon research facility during his visit to Australia in 2005.