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  • richardmitnick 5:39 pm on July 29, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Laser SETI, Robert Ferguson Observatory,   

    From SETI Institute: “Site for First LaserSETI Observatory Identified” 

    SETI Logo new
    From SETI Institute

    Jul 29, 2019

    Laser SETI, the future of SETI Institute research

    Plans are nearly complete for the first LaserSETI installation at the Robert Ferguson Observatory (RFO) in Sonoma County, California.

    Robert Ferguson Observatory (RFO)

    LaserSETI Principal Investigator, Eliot Gillum, has built a collaborative and productive relationship between the SETI Institute and RFO, after locating the site based on complex astronomical suitability criteria. The SETI Institute collaborated with RFO founding board member Dr. Gordon Spear, RFO Board President Dave Kensiski, and RFO Executive Director Chris Cable and the final logistics are being worked out for the placement of LaserSETI’s first observatory at RFO’s idyllic facility.

    Dr. Spear is also an Emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Sonoma State University and is “extremely excited” that RFO will be partnering with the SETI Institute. He added that LaserSETI is significant to the scientific research being performed at RFO since their primary mission focuses on education. RFO hosts numerous events, field trips, and a steady stream of drop-ins from the public, adding up to more than 8000 visitors each year. Visitors will be able to take advantage of this location to visit LaserSETI. RFO has been a 100% volunteer organization since its founding in 2000, until recently hiring its first executive director.

    See the full article here .


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    SETI Institute

    About the SETI Institute

    What is life? How does it begin? Are we alone? These are some of the questions we ask in our quest to learn about and share the wonders of the universe. At the SETI Institute we have a passion for discovery and for passing knowledge along as scientific ambassadors.

    The SETI Institute is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit scientific research institute headquartered in Mountain View, California. We are a key research contractor to NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and we collaborate with industry partners throughout Silicon Valley and beyond.

    Founded in 1984, the SETI Institute employs more than 130 scientists, educators, and administrative staff. Work at the SETI Institute is anchored by three centers: the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe (research), the Center for Education and the Center for Outreach.

    The SETI Institute welcomes philanthropic support from individuals, private foundations, corporations and other groups to support our education and outreach initiatives, as well as unfunded scientific research and fieldwork.

    A Special Thank You to SETI Institute Partners and Collaborators
    • Campoalto, Chile, NASA Ames Research Center, NASA Headquarters, National Science Foundation, Aerojet Rocketdyne,SRI International

    Frontier Development Lab Partners
    • Breakthrough Prize Foundation, European Space Agency, Google Cloud, IBM, Intel, KBRwyle. Kx Lockheed Martin, NASA Ames Research Center, Nvidia, SpaceResources Luxembourg, XPrize

    In-kind Service Providers
    • Gunderson Dettmer – General legal services, Hello Pilgrim – Website Design and Development Steptoe & Johnson – IP legal services, Danielle Futselaar

    SETI/Allen Telescope Array situated at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, 290 miles (470 km) northeast of San Francisco, California, USA, Altitude 986 m (3,235 ft)

    SETI Institute – 189 Bernardo Ave., Suite 100
    Mountain View, CA 94043
    Phone 650.961.6633 – Fax 650-961-7099
    Privacy PolicyQuestions and Comments

    Also in the hunt, but not a part of the SETI Institute

    SETI@home, a BOINC project originated in the Space Science Lab at UC Berkeley


    BOINC is a leader in the field(s) of Distributed Computing, Grid Computing and Citizen Cyberscience.BOINC is more properly the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, developed at UC Berkeley.

  • richardmitnick 12:08 pm on October 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Laser SETI, , ,   

    From Astronomy: Guest blog: Answers to your Laser SETI questions 

    Astronomy magazine

    From Astronomy Magazine

    August 17, 2017
    Alison Klesman

    The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a humbling process, to be sure. It’s difficult in the extreme to find something when we don’t know where to look for it, or what it will look like when it appears.

    More on that shortly but, before I get any further, I’d like to thank three groups of people. This article wouldn’t exist without those who asked great questions: Tom Scarnati, Richard Hammer, Bartlomiej Król and daughter, Don Schmidt, Dr. Muhsin Sheriff, Michael J. Sloboda, Cormac McKay, Crystal Robin, Roshan Vemula. Because of the overlap and connectedness of their questions, I’ve aggregated my answers rather than addressing them one-by-one. Second, I want to share my deep personal gratitude to the over 500 people who’ve contributed and/or shared their support for the Laser SETI Indiegogo campaign. And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank my team and colleagues at the SETI Institute, who have moved this project forward in countless ways and constantly demonstrate the highest levels of scientific expertise and integrity.

    Now, how can we search when we don’t know what we’re looking for? The answer is easy to define as “an indication of something non-natural and not human.” Each SETI project refines this definition for their particular approach. In radio SETI, it’s traditionally a narrower signal than we’ve ever seen in nature, which is exactly what we always do to tune our communications to be more efficient. Optical SETI has historically looked for a clustering of photons on a very short timescale–nanoseconds. The SETI Institute’s latest project, Laser SETI, is also an optical SETI project but uses a broader definition of a single-color point source of light that comes from beyond the moon and starts and ends at a definite time, whether lasting nanoseconds or minutes.

    None of these systems are intended to immediately decipher and understand a signal, but really just detect its presence. This is different than communication systems we’re familiar with in everyday life, like WiFi, whose job it is to communicate lots of information, like pictures of cats.

    SETI has been carried out in various ways for nearly 60 years, what more is there to search?

    SETI@home, a BOINC project originated in the Space Science Lab at UC Berkeley

    SETI/Allen Telescope Array situated at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, 290 miles (470 km) northeast of San Francisco, California, USA, Altitude 986 m (3,235 ft)

    The short answer and understatement of the year is “a lot.” The sum total of SETI experiments thus far haven’t yet covered even a tiny fraction of the space-time-frequency domain, and that’s looking for signals we can currently conceive of and detect. Clearly, the first thing to do is cover more of what we understand, starting with the most economical, then as we gain access to new technologies, like gravitational waves, we can search them too someday.

    Just which frequency (or color of radiation) to look for is a big problem. Project Ozma in 1960 searched two stars using a single-channel receiver over a miniscule portion of the radio dial.

    Howard E. Tatel Radio Telescope (85-1) at Green Bank site of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO)

    Today, the SETI Institute’s purpose-built Allen Telescope Array searches over 1000 times that amount of radio spectrum using 70 million channels, but there’s another million-fold increase required to cover the full radio dial. And with the reasonable budgetary assumption that we’ll be conducting these experiments from the surface of the Earth, there’s another spectral “window” in our atmosphere that we colloquially refer to as light—from ultraviolet, through the visible, into the deep infrared. Infrared might be an ideal choice if someone is intentionally trying to signal us, for instance, as it passes through interstellar dust much better because of its longer wavelength, but our detectors for it are less suitable and more expensive. And remember that they’ll be moving with respect to us, and may or may not have measured our atmosphere, so we’ll see whatever signal is sent as a different color/frequency than it was sent.

    Then there’s the number of places to search. If we limit ourselves to stars—which may not be valid if ET has much brighter transmitters than we do, or spaceships—then there’s 18 million within 1000 light years, which is about 1% of the diameter of our galaxy, and contains over 100 billion stars and is itself just one of billions of galaxies. And the sum total of all searches thus far haven’t even examined 1% of those 18 million stars.

    Finally, there’s the issue of time. Whatever signal we receive, it will have travelled across exactly as many light years as it took years to get here. It’s wonderful to see into the past, but we don’t know if signals are washing across us every second, every century, or never. An intriguing possibility, enabled by our newfound knowledge of exoplanets, is to look for a signal when two exoplanets line up along our line of sight. We’re just starting to study such opportunities. And, hoping the signal repeats so we can study it better, how often will that happen, if ever? What if the signal arrives while we’re looking at another part of the sky?

    Fortunately, as I alluded to before, technology has been improving consistently, decade over decade. This was anticipated by the SETI community when, 20 years ago, they set three goals. One was to build what became the Allen Telescope Array. Another was to monitor the whole sky all the time. This is where Laser SETI comes in.

    Laser SETI, the future of SETI Institute research

    It is the first economical project to take the spatial and time dimensions off the table, by observing the whole sky all the time—and across the entire optical band. Its unique design allows for 4 cameras to observe any potential signal, in order to produce compelling evidence of its origin or easily discard it as a false positive. It may or may not be the last SETI project ever, but it’s a major step forward and an achievement if we complete it.

    Moving on, many people ask what would happen if we discovered a signal. First, we would check and double-check ourselves. SETI must exclude all natural and human sources, instrumentation is complex, and nobody wants to embarrass themselves with a false alarm. Next, because this is science, it requires peer review and independent verification, wherever possible. We would ask other astronomers to examine the source, and bring their expertise to bear on both its apparent origin as well as our instrument and data. The SETI community is working on a system to quantify the confidence in a received signal, call the Rio Scale. Previous potentially interesting signals have demonstrated that this process includes the press and is necessarily international.

    This radio message was transmitted toward the globular cluster M13 using the Arecibo telescope in 1979. Image Credit Arne Nordmann (norro) Wikipedia

    NAIC Arecibo Observatory operated by University of Central Florida, Yang Enterprises and UMET, Altitude 497 m (1,631 ft).

    Another aspect of contact many people ask about is if we would respond and what would we say. Speaking for myself and my discussions with every other SETI scientist I’ve discussed this with, listening is completely separate from transmitting. In most cases the equipment is different but, more importantly, if and how we respond is a decision for the whole planet, not any small group. I’ve even heard the argument that we shouldn’t listen for signals for fear of who would respond or what they’d say. That strikes me as simply enabling whoever you think might respond to do so in secret and guarantee you don’t have a say in the matter!

    I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about how to send a self-explanatory (“anti-cryptographic”) message, than the words to put into it. Efforts along these lines are referred to as METI (Messaging to Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) but are not formal or prescriptive.

    METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) International has announced plans to start sending signals into space

    However, not to dodge the question and assuming the original signal didn’t have an obvious reply e.g. “Do you want to chat?” or “Can we eat all the humans?”, I would simply want to express greetings, thanks, and the hope that we could learn from each other. Since the round-trip time will likely be years, maybe millennia, that gives us a long time to think about it and probably include a lot more in response, perhaps even the sum of human knowledge—despite the guarantee that it would be out of date by the time it arrived.

    SETI is enthralling and empowering. It offers answers to questions we’ve had since the dawn of civilization, and the hope to unify all inhabitants of Spaceship Earth with the knowledge that we’re not alone. Contact would demonstrate to us that it’s possible to survive our technological adolescence. In today’s modern age, we all have a chance to participate in this thrilling process, whether via science and engineering, funding, or sharing our excitement with others. Thank you for your interest and please share your passion with others!

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 11:31 am on September 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Laser SETI, NASA Technosignatures Workshop, , ,   

    From Science Alert: “NASA Has Announced The Next Step in Their Hunt For Alien Life” 


    From Science Alert

    30 SEP 2018


    We’re closer than ever before.

    NASA is targeting technosignatures in its renewed effort to detect alien civilizations.

    Congress asked NASA to re-boot its search for other civilizations a few months ago. Their first step towards that goal is the NASA Technosignatures Workshop, held in Houston from September 26th to 28th, 2018.

    If you’ve never stared out to space at night and wondered if there are other civilizations out there, well…that’s difficult to understand.

    One of humanity’s most ancient and persistent longings is to know if there are others out there. Though it may seem like a long shot, the attempt is irresistible. And NASA’s newest attempt involves technosignatures.

    What are Technosignatures?

    Technosignatures are simply evidence of technology. They’re the effects or signature of technological use. The most obvious example might be radio waves, but some experts in technosignatures reject those, because the universe is riddled with radio waves produced by natural sources.

    SETI was the original search for alien civilizations. But SETI was more or less a search for intentional radio signals sent by another civilization. This new search will be different in scope. Technosignatures are the unintentional signals that provide evidence for a technological civilization.

    Technosignatures include laser emissions, indications of massive megastructures like Dyson Spheres, or, sadly, highly-polluted atmospheres.

    An artist’s concept of a Dyson sphere, built by an advanced civilization to capture the energy of a star. Image via CapnHack, via energyphysics.wikispaces.com.

    At the Technosignatures Workshop, they also talked about detecting megacities on other planets through their heat signature, and detecting satellites orbiting other planets.

    But in each of these cases, any technosignatures would likely not jump right out at us. It will require some advanced sleuthing techniques to determine if what searchers are detecting are in fact technosignatures.

    That’s why NASA held the workshop. Presenters outlined the current state of the field in detecting technosignatures, what the most promising avenues of research are, and what investments can advance the science of technosignature detection.

    A major stated goal of the workshop is to understand how NASA can support the whole field through partnerships with both private and philanthropic partners.

    There’s precedent for partnerships in the search for the detection of technosignatures. The SETI effort was a NASA program up until 1993 when Congress reigned it in.

    SETI/Allen Telescope Array situated at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, 290 miles (470 km) northeast of San Francisco, California, USA, Altitude 986 m (3,235 ft)

    Since then, other organizations and wealthy people like Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, have kept SETI going.

    SETI@home, a BOINC project originated in the Space Science Lab at UC Berkeley

    Laser SETI, the future of SETI Institute research

    But now NASA is back in the game, and their Technosignatures Workshop is their first step in a renewed effort to detect other civilizations.

    This new effort comes on the heels of major discoveries in the past few years. For a long time we didn’t know if other stars had planets in their orbits, or if our Solar System was unique. But the Kepler mission changed all that.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope

    Kepler has discovered over 2,600 exoplanets and is still going. And Kepler has only searched a tiny portion of the sky.


    With that data in hand, there’s no reason to think that exoplanets aren’t plentiful throughout the galaxy and the universe. Congress must have realized that, and decided to urge NASA to search some of the newly-discovered exoplanets for evidence of civilizations.

    Telescopes now in the design and construction phases will allow us to image exoplanets, to study their atmospheres, and potentially detect hot-spots on their surfaces.

    We may even be able to use the transit method to detect any satellites orbiting another planet. Nobody knows what we’ll find, but it’s hard not to get a little excited.

    There’s a lot of work to be done. Scientists will have to decide the best way to proceed. But once they get going, it promises to be a very exciting endeavour.

    And then there is

    Breakthrough Listen Project


    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 1:58 pm on January 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Laser SETI, , , , ,   

    From QUB via The Conversation: “How we created a mini ‘gamma ray burst’ in the lab for the first time” 

    QUB bloc

    Queens University Belfast (QUB)

    The Conversation

    January 15, 2018

    Gamma ray bursts, intense explosions of light, are the brightest events ever observed in the universe – lasting no longer than seconds or minutes. Some are so luminous that they can be observed with the naked eye, such as the burst “GRB 080319B” discovered by NASA’s Swift GRB Explorer mission on March 19, 2008.

    NASA Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory

    But despite the fact that they are so intense, scientists don’t really know what causes gamma ray bursts. There are even people who believe some of them might be messages sent from advanced alien civilisations. Now we have for the first time managed to recreate a mini version of a gamma ray burst in the laboratory – opening up a whole new way to investigate their properties. Our research is published in Physical Review Letters.

    One idea for the origin of gamma ray bursts [Science] is that they are somehow emitted during the emission of jets of particles released by massive astrophysical objects, such as black holes. This makes gamma ray bursts extremely interesting to astrophysicists – their detailed study can unveil some key properties of the black holes they originate from.

    The beams released by the black holes would be mostly composed of electrons and their “antimatter” companions, the positrons – all particle have antimatter counterparts that are exactly identical to themselves, only with opposite charge. These beams must have strong, self-generated magnetic fields. The rotation of these particles around the fields give off powerful bursts of gamma ray radiation. Or, at least, this is what our theories predict [MNRAS]. But we don’t actually know how the fields would be generated.

    Unfortunately, there are a couple of problems in studying these bursts. Not only do they last for short periods of time but, most problematically, they are originated in distant galaxies, sometimes even billion light years from Earth (imagine a one followed by 25 zeroes – this is basically what one billion light years is in metres).

    That means you rely on looking at something unbelievably far away that happens at random, and lasts only for few seconds. It is a bit like understanding what a candle is made of, by only having glimpses of candles being lit up from time to time thousands of kilometres from you.

    World’s most powerful laser

    It has been recently proposed that the best way to work out how gamma ray bursts are produced would be by mimicking them in small-scale reproductions in the laboratory – reproducing a little source of these electron-positron beams and look at how they evolve when left on their own. Our group and our collaborators from the US, France, UK, and Sweden, recently succeeded in creating the first small-scale replica of this phenomenon by using one of the most intense lasers on Earth, the Gemini laser, hosted by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK.

    The Gemini laser, hosted by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK.

    How intense is the most intense laser on Earth? Take all the solar power that hits the whole Earth and squeeze it into a few microns (basically the thickness of a human hair) and you have got the intensity of a typical laser shot in Gemini. Shooting this laser onto a complex target, we were able to release ultra-fast and dense copies of these astrophysical jets and make ultra-fast movies of how they behave. The scaling down of these experiments is dramatic: take a real jet that extends even for thousands of light years and compress it down to a few millimetres.

    In our experiment, we were able to observe, for the first time, some of the key phenomena that play a major role in the generation of gamma ray bursts, such as the self-generation of magnetic fields that lasted for a long time. These were able to confirm some major theoretical predictions of the strength and distribution of these fields. In short, our experiment independently confirms that the models currently used to understand gamma ray bursts are on the right track.

    The experiment is not only important for studying gamma ray bursts. Matter made only of electrons and positrons is an extremely peculiar state of matter. Normal matter on Earth is predominantly made of atoms: a heavy positive nucleus surrounded by clouds of light and negative electrons.

    Artist impression of gamma ray burst. NASA [no additional credit for which facility or which artist].

    Due to the incredible difference in weight between these two components (the lightest nucleus weighs 1836 times the electron) almost all the phenomena we experience in our everyday life comes from the dynamics of electrons, which are much quicker in responding to any external input (light, other particles, magnetic fields, you name it) than nuclei. But in an electron-positron beam, both particles have exactly the same mass, meaning that this disparity in reaction times is completely obliterated. This brings to a quantity of fascinating consequences. For example, sound would not exist in an electron-positron world.

    So far so good, but why should we care so much about events that are so distant? There are multiple reasons indeed. First, understanding how gamma ray bursts are formed will allow us to understand a lot more about black holes and thus open a big window on how our universe was born and how it will evolve.

    But there is a more subtle reason. SETI – Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence – looks for messages from alien civilisations by trying to capture electromagnetic signals from space that cannot be explained naturally (it focuses mainly on radio waves, but gamma ray bursts are associated with such radiation too).

    Breakthrough Listen Project


    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    U Manchester Jodrell Bank Lovell Telescope

    SETI@home, BOINC project at UC Berkeley Space Science Lab

    Laser SETI, the future of SETI Institute research

    Of course, if you put your detector to look for emissions from space, you do get an awful lot of different signals. If you really want to isolate intelligent transmissions, you first need to make sure all the natural emissions are perfectly known so that they can excluded. Our study helps towards understanding black hole and pulsar emissions, so that, whenever we detect anything similar, we know that it is not coming from an alien civilisation.

    See the full article here .

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    STEM Icon

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    With more than 23,000 students and 3,700 staff, it is a dynamic and diverse institution, a magnet for inward investment, a major employer and investor, a patron of the arts and a global player in areas ranging from cancer studies to sustainability, and from pharmaceuticals to creative writing.
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  • richardmitnick 11:57 am on December 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Laser SETI, , , , , Where in the Worlds has SETI Institute Been? - Nov 27 – Dec 3 2017   

    From SETI Institute: “Where in the Worlds has SETI Institute Been? – Nov 27 – Dec 3, 2017” 

    SETI Logo new
    SETI Institute


    New Technologies for SETI Searches
    The traditional method of searching for extraterrestrial signals in space is through radio astronomy, the method that’s used at the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array (ATA), among other sites.

    SETI/Allen Telescope Array situated at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, 290 miles (470 km) northeast of San Francisco, California, USA, Altitude 986 m (3,235 ft)

    Shelley Wright who developed NIROSETI, at the 1 meter Nickel Telescope at the UC Santa CruzLick Observatory

    Laser SETI, the future of SETI Institute research

    New methods are being explored now, optical SETI is an example, and the SETI Institute is developing its Laser SETI program to search the sky for laser flashes generated by extraterrestrial intelligence. SETI Institute scientist Margaret Turnbull comments to SyfyWire:

    “I’m anxious to see the SETI search become more methodical in conducting and publishing well-designed search programs,” she says.

    If we detect something, Turnbull says it will answer questions about how aliens communicate with each other. She says we should look at animals on Earth — “especially in collective ‘hive’ minds” and that we should look out for senses that some animals have that humans lack, as well as the nature of memory.

    “To me, all of this hints at how limited we are in the way we look at the universe, and pondering this deeply could help us think about ways to broaden our search for intelligence elsewhere,” she says. (SyFyWire)

    See the full article here .

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    SETI Institute – 189 Bernardo Ave., Suite 100
    Mountain View, CA 94043
    Phone 650.961.6633 – Fax 650-961-7099
    Privacy PolicyQuestions and Comments

  • richardmitnick 7:43 am on October 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Contact, , Laser SETI, , NIROSETI-Near-Infrared Optical SETI instrument at Lick, , ,   

    From Nautilus: “Why We’ll Have Evidence of Aliens—If They Exist—By 2035” 



    Oct 04, 2017

    SETI astronomer Seth Shostak

    Seth Shostak

    SETI Institute

    The search for alien technology is about to get much more efficient. No image credit.

    I’ve bet a cup of coffee to any and all that by 2035 we’ll have evidence of E.T. To many of my colleagues, that sounds like a losing proposition. For more than a half-century, a small coterie of scientists has been pursuing the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI. And we haven’t found a thing.

    I’m optimistic by nature—as a scientist, you have to be. But my hopeful feeling is not wishful thinking; it is firmly grounded in the logic of SETI.

    Half a century sounds like a long time, but the search is truly in its early days. Given the current state of SETI efforts and abilities, I feel that we’re on the cusp of learning something truly revolutionary.

    Most of our experiments so far have used large radio antennas in an effort to eavesdrop on radio signals transmitted by other societies, an approach that was dramatized by Jodie Foster in the 1997 movie Contact.

    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA

    SETI@home, BOINC project at UC Berkeley Space Science Lab

    Anybody out there: Jodie Foster as Ellie Arroway in the 1997 movie Contact, which was based on the bestseller by Carl Sagan. Getty Images

    Unlike other alien potboilers, Contact’s portrayal of how we might search for extraterrestrials was reasonably accurate. Nonetheless, that film reinforced the common belief that SETI practitioners paw through cosmic static looking for unusual patterns, such as a string of prime numbers. The truth is simpler: We have been searching for narrow-band signals. “Narrow-band” means that a large fraction of the transmitter power is squeezed into a tiny part of the radio dial, making the transmission easier to find. This is analogous to the way a laser pointer, despite having only a few milliwatts of power, nonetheless looks bright because the energy is concentrated into a narrow wavelength range.

    A modern SETI receiver simultaneously examines tens or even hundreds of millions of channels, each having a cramped 1-hertz bandwidth. That bandwidth is 5 million times narrower than a TV signal and lacks the capacity to carry information—a message. But the idea is to first discover aliens that are on the air, after which a far larger instrument would be built to dig out any modulation.

    To aim our antennas, SETI has traditionally used two approaches. One is to scan as much of the sky as possible; the other is to zero in on nearby star systems. You might think that the former would have an edge, since it makes no assumptions about where the aliens might be hanging out. But a sky survey spends most of its time looking at empty space. If you subscribe to the conventional view that extraterrestrials will most likely be ensconced on planets or moons, then it’s better to devote precious telescope time to examining nearby star systems.

    One current targeted search is the SETI Institute’s red dwarf survey, which takes place at the Allen Telescope Array, an ensemble of 42 antennas hunkered down in the California Cascades.

    SETI/Allen Telescope Array situated at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, 290 miles (470 km) northeast of San Francisco, California, USA

    We are going down a list of 20,000 small stars that are prime candidates for hosting habitable planets. These ruddy runts are both numerous and, on average, old. Most have been around for billions of years, the time it took life on Earth to evolve from microscopic slime to high-tech hominids. Astronomers estimate that roughly one-half of all red dwarfs might have a rocky world in the habitable zone, where temperatures would abide liquid water.

    The SETI Institute is not the only band of alien hunters. Buoyed by a large infusion of money from the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, the SETI group at the University of California, Berkeley, is renting time on the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Parkes Radio Telescope in the sheep country west of Sydney, Australia. Their decade-long project, known as Breakthrough Listen, also homes in on individual star systems.

    Breakthrough Listen Project


    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    By Hilary Lebow
    The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

    Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

    “Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

    Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

    UCSC alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego, discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

    Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

    “The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

    The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

    Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

    “We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

    Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

    “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

    NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

    “Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

    NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

    The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

    While these efforts are broadly similar to what’s been done for decades, they are not your daddy’s SETI. The rapid growth in digital processing means that far larger swaths of the radio dial can be examined at one go and—in the case of the Allen array—many star systems can be checked out simultaneously. The array now examines three stars at once, but additional computer power could boost that to more than 100. Within two decades, SETI experiments will be able to complete a reconnaissance of 1 million star systems, which is hundreds of times more than have been carefully examined so far. SETI practitioners from Frank Drake to Carl Sagan have estimated that the galaxy currently houses somewhere between 10,000 and a few million broadcasting societies.

    Carl Sagan

    Frank Drake

    Drake Equation, Frank Drake, Seti Institute

    If these estimates are right, then examining 1 million star systems could well lead to a discovery. So, if the premise of SETI has merit, we should find a broadcast from E.T. within a generation. That would spare me the expense of buying you a cup of coffee.

    Furthermore, scientists have been diversifying. For two decades, some SETI researchers have used conventional optical telescopes to look for extremely brief laser flashes coming from the stars. In many ways, aliens might be more likely to communicate by pulsed light than radio signals, for the same reason that people are turning to fiber optics for Internet access: It can, at least in principle, send 100,000 times as many bits per second as radio can. These so-called optical SETI experiments have been limited to looking at one star system at a time. But like their radio cousins, they’re poised to become speedier as new technology allows them to survey ever-wider tracts of sky.

    NEUTRINOS IN THE ICE: The IceCube neutrino observatory in Antarctica has been searching for energetic cosmic neutrinos, which some astronomers have proposed—probably quixotically—as a medium for extraterrestrial communications.NSF/B. Gudbjartsson

    Physicists have also proposed wholly new modes of communications, such as neutrinos and gravitational waves. Some of my SETI colleagues have mulled these options, but we don’t see much merit in them at the moment. Both neutrinos and gravitational waves are inherently hard to create and detect. In nature, it takes the collapse of a star or the merger of black holes to produce them in any quantity. The total energy required to send “Hello, Earth” would be daunting, even for a civilization that could command the resources of a galaxy.

    IceCube, the University of Wisconsin’s big neutrino detector in Antarctica, is sensitive only to very high-energy particles, which are precisely those that would be costliest to produce.

    U Wisconsin ICECUBE neutrino detector at the South Pole

    In all the years it has been operating, the instrument has detected a total of a few dozen of these particles, even though it is a cubic kilometer in size. As for gravitational waves, the Laser Interferometric Gravitational-Wave Observatory has been able to detect colliding black holes over the final second of their infall.

    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    Skymap showing how adding Virgo to LIGO helps in reducing the size of the source-likely region in the sky. (Credit: Giuseppe Greco (Virgo Urbino group)

    It is hard to imagine that aliens would go to the trouble of smashing together two huge black holes for a second’s worth of signal.

    But there is a completely different approach that has yet to be explored in much detail: to look for artifacts—engineering projects of an advanced society. Some astronomers have suggested an alien megastructure, possibly an energy-collecting Dyson sphere, as the explanation for the mysterious dimming of Tabby’s star (officially known as KIC 8462852). It is a serious possibility, but no evidence has yet been found to support it.

    This artist’s concept shows a swarm of comets passing before a star. NASA / JPL-Caltech

    It’s also conceivable that extraterrestrials could have left time capsules in our own solar system, perhaps millions or billions of years ago, on the assumption that our planet might eventually evolve a species able to find them. The Lagrange points in the Earth-moon system—locations where the gravity of Earth, moon, and sun are balanced, so that an object placed there will stay there—have been suggested as good hunting grounds for alien artifacts, as has the moon itself.

    LaGrange Points map. NASA

    Another idea is that we should search for the high-energy exhausts of interstellar rockets. The fastest spacecraft would presumably use the most efficient fuel: matter combining with antimatter. Their destructive “combustion” would not only shoot the craft through space at a fair fraction of the speed of light, but would produce a gamma-ray exhaust, which we might detect. Rockets could be sorted out from natural gamma ray sources by their relatively quick motion across the sky.

    The appealing thing about artifacts is that finding them is not time-critical. In contrast, to search for signals, you need to activate your instruments at the right time. It doesn’t help to look for radio pings, laser flashes, or neutrino bursts if E.T. reached out to touch us during the reign of the dinosaurs or will do so a hundred million years from now. Artifacts have no such synchronicity problem. That said, looking for artifacts has its own bummer factors. Anything beyond our solar system would need be truly huge to be visible; cousins of the starship Enterprise would be very difficult to find.

    SETI is not a traditional science problem in which a hypothesis can be falsified. We can never prove that the aliens are not out there, only that they are. But our ability to search improves with every technological innovation. I compare the situation to the year 1491. European civilization had been around for 2,500 years, yet the Americas were not on any map. Mesoamerican civilization, for its part, had been around for about as long, but also was ignorant of what lay over the oceans. With a glimpse and a shout from a sailor on the Pinta, everything changed.

    [No mention of Laser SETI, the latest attempt from The SETI Institute.

    Laser SETI

    Seth Shostak is the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. He chaired the International Academy of Astronautics’s SETI Permanent Study Group for a decade and hosts the SETI Institute’s weekly hour-long science radio show, “Big Picture Science.” He is the co-author of a textbook on astrobiology and of Confessions of an Alien Hunter: A Scientist’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Follow him on Twitter @SethShostak.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Welcome to Nautilus. We are delighted you joined us. We are here to tell you about science and its endless connections to our lives. Each month we choose a single topic. And each Thursday we publish a new chapter on that topic online. Each issue combines the sciences, culture and philosophy into a single story told by the world’s leading thinkers and writers. We follow the story wherever it leads us. Read our essays, investigative reports, and blogs. Fiction, too. Take in our games, videos, and graphic stories. Stop in for a minute, or an hour. Nautilus lets science spill over its usual borders. We are science, connected.

  • richardmitnick 12:22 pm on July 12, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Laser SETI,   

    From SETI Institute: Laser SETI 

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    SETI Institute

    Laser SETI: First Ever All-Sky All-the-Time Search

    Until now, SETI experiments (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), whether listening for a radio transmitter or searching for a high-powered laser, have assumed that ET is on-the-air all the time, so that wherever the instrument is pointed, the signal will be there.

    Laser SETI is the first experiment to circumvent this assumption.

    Laser SETI could find a very short ping from anywhere on the night sky. Indeed, it could detect a laser flash as short as a millisecond or less; and one that might not repeat for days, weeks, or even longer. Or ever.

    Searching all-the-sky all-the-time is an essential capability when looking for intermittent signals. Radio experiments will someday be able to do that, but Laser SETI can do so right now–with your help.



    Laser SETI makes this possible by using multiple, redundant, and inexpensive detectors, located strategically around the globe. And experiments of the past two years have shown that this technology works.

    The Laser SETI campaign will fund the remaining development and the installation of two detectors in a fully operational observing campaign. This would be a prelude to large-scale production and deployment around the world.

    The SETI Institute is a private, nonprofit, scientific research organization, where more than 70 scientists study the origin and nature of life in the universe. We have a passion for discovery and exploration, and strive to be ambassadors of science to everyone.

    Frank Drake did the first SETI observations at the Green Bank Observatory in 1960. Project Phoenix was a decade-long search using radio telescopes around the globe, and now with our game-changing Allen Telescope Array commissioned in 2007, the team at the SETI Institute continues its relentless innovation.

    We’re proud to continue that tradition today, with Laser SETI led by Silicon Valley engineer Eliot Gillum and astrophysicist Gerry Harp, supported by Jill Tarter (made famous by Jodi Foster’s role in Carl Sagan’s movie Contact, and winning the TED prize) and Seth Shostak (astronomer and host of the Big Picture Science radio program), and advised by other scientists from the SETI Institute and elsewhere.

    Project Status and Need

    Laser SETI has been under development for more than two years. The instrument and associated software have now been proven with basic sky observations, validating the design and various types of sensor noise. Now it’s time to begin scaling up to a full sky observing campaign.

    But we need you to help us take the next step! Laser SETI is exceedingly cost efficient, but astronomy-grade cameras must be purchased and optics fabricated. Meanwhile, the team must work to finish development and run SETI operations.

    Here are the funding levels needed to advance to a fully operational system:

    $100,000 With two cameras, we can spatially localize targets on the sky, validating the algorithm and distribution of potential signals
    $150,000 Dual site operations can commence with 2 cameras at each location. Full time, high confidence SETI can begin with one 75 degree-across patch of sky. And, to show our excitement, we’ll announce a BONUS PERK!!!
    $280,000 Two half-observatories means twice as much SETI and half as long to fundamentally prove the observing strategy
    $510,000 Two full observatories!!!

    Technology: How It Works

    To detect monochromatic flashes anywhere in the sky, you first need to see the whole sky by “tiling” it with cameras. The cameras should have a large field of view, so fewer are needed, as well as to lower computational and maintenance costs. To detect a dim short flash, you must read the camera out very quickly. We use a specialized technique to read out our camera more than 1000 times per second! This technique gains time resolution by losing information vertically, but that’s ok because we get it back with another camera looking at the same patch of sky–which was needed to maximize sensitivity anyways. Finally, to distinguish a single color of light from other types of sources, a specialized transmission grating is used to spread out each point source into two spectra; the technical term for this is “slitless spectroscopy.”

    You can’t see the whole sky from any one part of the globe. Below is a map of ideal locations for the observatories. Technically, only 6 are required to see the whole sky (red dots), but secondary observatories (gray dots) provide greatly increased statistical and physical validation of signals detected, as well as basic coverage when a primary site has bad weather.


    (Talk starts at 6:47)

    Risks & Challenges

    The SETI Institute is a leader in its field and well suited to take on this audacious project. However, as with all science and engineering, specific outcomes cannot be guaranteed.

    We believe the minimal risk that remains is demonstrating the observing strategy with multiple cameras and initial data collection at large scale. The hardware has been designed to be robust and the camera itself has been extensively field tested. There’s some software still to be developed, but that is mostly automation and cloud data collection and reporting.

    Other Ways You Can Help

    Maybe you just can’t contribute directly, or you already did and still want to do more, you’re in luck!

    SETI is an endeavor for all humanity, and we need your help getting the word out to all interested parties! Tell your friends, share with the buttons on this page, light your laser beacon!

    See the full article here .
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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