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  • richardmitnick 8:05 pm on March 30, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , SETI Institute, SETI Institute's Hat Creek Radio Observatory   

    From SETI Institute: “Research group to construct outrigger telescope to search for FRBs at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory” 


    From SETI Institute

    March 30, 2022

    The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) is expanding its ability to more accurately identify where fast radio bursts (FRBs) are coming from. The organization is constructing a new radio telescope outrigger at the SETI Institute’s Hat Creek Radio Observatory (HCRO) [below], site of the Allen Telescope Array (ATA). The outrigger will work with the main CHIME instrument in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley and enable CHIME-detected FRBs to be precisely localized on the sky. In addition to the new radio telescope at HCRO, CHIME is constructing outriggers near Princeton, British Columbia on land kindly leased to CHIME by HML Mining Ltd., and at the Green Bank Observatory.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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), the origins of the Institute’s search.

    Alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego (US), discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument, developed at the U Toronto Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (CA) and brought to UCSD and installed at the UC Santa Cruz (US) Lick Observatory Nickel Telescope (Photo by Laurie Hatch).

    Shelley Wright of UC San Diego with (US) NIROSETI, developed at U Toronto Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (CA) at the 1-meter Nickel Telescope at Lick Observatory at UC Santa Cruz

    NIROSETI team from left to right Rem Stone UCO Lick Observatory Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley; Jérôme Maire, U Toronto; Shelley Wright, UCSD; Patrick Dorval, U Toronto; Richard Treffers, Starman Systems. (Image by Laurie Hatch).

    Laser SETI

    LaserSETI observatory installation at Haleakala Observatory in Maui, Hawai’i aimed East. There is also an installation at Robert Ferguson Observatory, Sonoma, CA aimed West for full coverage [no image available].

    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 [Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing] 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 4:21 pm on December 21, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "LaserSETI installs 2nd observatory at Haleakala Observatory", , LaserSETI is a unique astronomy program designed to detect potential laser pulses originating from outside the solar system., SETI Institute, The Haleakala Observatory -University of Hawai'i Institute for Astronomy Facilities (US)   

    From SETI Institute via phys.org : “LaserSETI installs 2nd observatory at Haleakala Observatory” 


    From SETI Institute

    via

    phys.org

    December 21, 2021

    1
    LaserSETI Installation at Haleakala. The instruments here look at the same point as the ones at Ferguson (RFO) in Sonoma, CA. Image Credit: Eliot Gillum.

    Last summer the SETI Institute began installing a second LaserSETI Observatory, this time 10,000 feet above sea level at The Haleakala Observatory -University of Hawai’i Institute for Astronomy Facilities (US), thanks to the University of Hawai’i’s Institute of Astronomy (IfA).

    3
    Haleakalā Observatory located on the island of Maui owned by the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawai’i (US)

    As a result of challenges involving equipment damaged during shipping, supply chain delays for replacement parts, equipment malfunctions and even a blizzard in Hawai’i, the installation was delayed but is now complete. While two of the four cameras are not fully functional and will be replaced, observations are now possible and data collection is underway. The staff at the IfA has provided invaluable assistance throughout the setup process especially during times when it was not possible for LaserSETI staff to be onsite due to COVID restrictions and other logistical challenges.

    LaserSETI is a unique astronomy program designed to detect potential laser pulses originating from outside the solar system. It is building a global network of instruments to monitor the entire night sky. Each LaserSETI device consists of two identical cameras rotated 90 degrees to one another along the viewing axis. They work by using a transmission grating to split light sources up into spectra, then read the camera out more than a thousand times per second. The first LaserSETI observatory is at the Robert Ferguson Observatory in Sonoma, CA.

    2
    Robert Ferguson Observatory, Sonoma, CA (US)

    Cameras at the new site in Hawai’i will be aimed east, and the California devices are be aimed west. The two observatories will provide redundant coverage of the sky over the Pacific because, as Carl Sagan said, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    “LaserSETI is attempting a big step forward in SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. It’s the first project in either optical or radio astronomy designed to cover the entire sky. When you don’t know where to look, an instrument with an enormous field-of-view and time range allows us to cover a lot more ground than ever before.” said Eliot Gillum, principal investigator for LaserSETI. “There are so many people who’ve helped make LaserSETI possible that I’d like to thank. From the project team to other scientists at the SETI Institute, to our Indiegogo backers and private donors, to our outstanding observatory partners at Institute for Astronomy and Ferguson Observatory, it takes a village to tackle a project this audacious.”

    “The possibility that life exists elsewhere is exciting for the public, especially with the reports of biologically interesting molecules in the atmosphere of Venus, the selection of two Venus missions by NASA, the Mars Perseverance rover mission, and the upcoming Europa Clipper mission to explore Jupiter’s moon,” said Karen Meech, IfA interim director. “UH has had a long involvement in Astrobiology to explore the possibility of life elsewhere—both through research related to formation of habitable worlds, discovery of exoplanets, and the development of new innovative mirror and telescope technology to detect planets. It is exciting to add a new direction to this investigation by searching for technological signatures.”

    Traditionally optical SETI projects have relied on photomultiplier tubes to detect laser flashes, essentially making them one-pixel cameral and enabling only a small part of the sky to be observed. LaserSETI uses two cameras with a commercial lenses that images approximately 75 degrees of the sky onto off-the-shelf solid-state detectors. In front of the lens is a grating that transforms any light source in the camera’s field-of-view into a double rainbow-like spectrum. While stars will produce a complete spectrum from blue to red, a laser will only show up at its characteristic wavelength (think of your red laser pointer). Able to distinguish different colors of light, LaserSETI instrumentation is not limited to extremely short flashes as conventional SETI searches have been. And because the devices are wide-angle, it’s possible to cover the entire night sky with a relatively small number of them, thereby keeping costs down.

    Initial funding for LaserSETI was raised through a crowdfunding campaign in 2017, with additional financing provided through private donations. The plan calls for ten more instruments deployed in Puerto Rico, the Canary Islands, and Chile. When this phase is complete, the system will be able to monitor the nighttime sky in roughly half of the western hemisphere.

    Next steps for LaserSETI at Haleakala will include replacing two of the cameras to bring the system to full functionality. This is expected to take place by January of 2022.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (US) , The National Science Foundation (US), Aerojet Rocketdyne,SRI International

    Frontier Development Lab Partners
    Breakthrough Prize Foundation, The European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU), 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), the origins of the Institute’s search.

    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 [Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing] 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 9:40 pm on December 16, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "What we learned about life beyond Earth in 2021", A new class of exoplanets: Hycean (hydrogen-ocean) worlds., Allen Telescope Array detects FRB-the repeating source known as FRB20201124A., , , , , Complex molecules associated with life spotted in space., , Dual Missions to Venus will shine a light on Earth’s twin- DAVINCI+ and VERITAS., Ganymede has water vapor-could it have life?, Green Bank Observatory(US), LaserSETI observatory installation at Haleakala Observatory in Maui Hawai’i (US), SETI Institute, The U.S. government concluded that most UAPs-Unidentified Ariel Phenomenon-can’t be understood fully due to limited data but says nothing about a possible extraterrestrial source for these incidents   

    From SETI Institute : “What we learned about life beyond Earth in 2021” 


    From SETI Institute

    Dec 8, 2021

    Alien hunters recap the most exciting developments of the year.

    When news broke that scientists had detected a signal when their antennas were aimed at Proxima Centauri, many thought we had finally found evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth.

    Centauris Alpha Beta Proxima, 27 February 2012. Skatebiker.

    Turns out, the signal is easily explainable as terrestrial interference and didn’t come from E.T. Still, 2021 has been full of exciting developments in the search for life beyond Earth. From better understanding the origin of life to exploring potentially habitable worlds of our solar system, here are the SETI highlights of the year.

    Complex molecules associated with life spotted in space.

    For the first time, scientists found complex carbon-bearing molecules critical to the development of life in space. Scientists have long believed that these molecules are abundant in the universe, and in March, the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia detected the first definitive radio signatures from them.
    _____________________________________________________________________________________

    Green Bank Radio Telescope, West Virginia, USA, now the center piece of the Green Bank Observatory(US), being cut loose by the National Science Foundation(US), supported by Breakthrough Listen Project, West Virginia University, and operated by the nonprofit The Associated Universities, Inc.(US)
    _____________________________________________________________________________________

    Alessandra Ricca, SETI Institute researcher, is working on a database of infrared signals from these complex molecules for future observations using the James Webb Space Telescope, to be launched in December.

    National Aeronautics Space Agency(USA)/European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)/ Canadian Space Agency [Agence Spatiale Canadienne](CA) Webb Infrared Space Telescope(US) James Webb Space Telescope annotated. Scheduled for launch in October 2021 delayed to December 2021.

    Further research will help humans understand how life originates and the conditions it needs to thrive throughout the universe.

    Perseverance Rover gets to work – what clues about life do its samples hold?

    Perseverence Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover – NASA Mars annotated.

    NASA’s Perseverance Rover, Percy to friends, made a nail-biting landing in Mars’ Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021. The Red Planet is of enormous interest to astrobiologists and to SETI because the planet may have once been warmer and wetter and thus habitable. Understanding whether life ever existed on Mars will help humans understand more about how life originated on Earth and, possibly, on other planets.

    Percy successfully cached its first sample of Martian rock, which will be returned to Earth in an upcoming mission. It also made images suggesting Jezero Crater had experienced past flooding, further advancing the idea that it was once a lake.

    And, of course, we can’t forget the little helicopter that could, Ingenuity, which hitched a ride to Mars with Percy.

    NASA Mars Ingenuity helicopter traveling with Perseverance rover.

    Ingenuity became the first aircraft to complete a controlled flight on a planet beyond Earth. The helicopter’s success will help future missions understand how best to use an aircraft as a scout for interesting exploration sites.

    Allen Telescope Array detects FRB.

    In June, the team at the Allen Telescope array announced an observation of a bright double-peaked Fast Radio Burst (FRB) from the repeating source known as FRB20201124A. This observation was the first FRB detected with the ATA, which has been undergoing extensive upgrades for both its receivers and digital signal processing hardware.

    This detection demonstrates the sensitivity of the ATA’s instrumentation and its abilities to detect a radio signal of interest in the search for advanced societies beyond Earth.

    Additionally, Dr. Sofia Sheikh, an astronomer and physicist, has been awarded a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the ATA to focus on FRBs and develop improved SETI detection methods. She will also mentor underrepresented students in physics and astronomy. Read more about these exciting updates here and here.

    U.S. Government issues inconclusive report on UAPs.

    In June, the U.S. government issued its highly anticipated preliminary report on Unidentified Ariel Phenomenon (UAPs). The report concluded that most UAPs can’t be understood fully due to limited data but says nothing about a possible extraterrestrial source for these incidents.

    This report, and the buzz surrounding it, raise important questions for the SETI community, primarily are UAPs worthy of deeper scientific study and if so, how do we do it? Researchers at Harvard University (US), the SETI Institute, and the broader community are working on answers to these questions.

    Dual Missions to Venus will shine a light on Earth’s twin- DAVINCI+ and VERITAS.

    In June, NASA announced two missions to Venus: DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) and VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy).

    DAVINCI+ Artist’s concept of descent stages-Credit Goddard Space Flight Center.

    VERITAS-Exploring the Deep Truths of Venus. Credit NASA JPL.

    These will be the first NASA missions to Venus, often referred to as Earth’s twin, since 1990, and will increase our understanding of the planet and its evolution. This information will help SETI scientists better characterize habitable zones around stars and climate change on planets.

    DAVINCI+ will send a probe into Venus’ atmosphere to better determine its composition at various altitudes and take images of Venus’ “tesserae,” land masses akin to Earth’s continents. David Grinspoon, a member of the SETI Institute’s Science Advisory Board, is a key investigator on this mission.

    VERITAS is an orbiter that will better map the planet’s surface, identify rock types on the surface, and determine if active volcanoes are releasing water vapor or phosphine into the atmosphere.

    Ganymede has water vapor-could it have life?

    Planets aren’t the only type of world that could sustain life; Several of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn have been particularly interesting to astrobiologists. And scientists studying Hubble images have found evidence that water vapor exists in the atmosphere of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. Since water is essential to life on Earth, this discovery will prompt further study of this moon.

    A new class of exoplanets to study

    A group of scientists identified a new class of exoplanets, Hycean (hydrogen-ocean) worlds, which are covered with oceans and boast hydrogen-rich atmospheres. These planets are numerous and, thanks to their size, easier to find than small, rocky, Earth-like planets. They are also thought to be quite warm, making it possible for microbial life to thrive beneath their surface.

    With the launch of the James Webb Telescope, researchers are hoping to learn more about these interesting candidates for life beyond Earth.

    Laser SETI begins installation in Hawaii

    While the ATA searches the skies for radio signals, LaserSETI will examine star systems for laser flashes that could indicate the presence of an advanced civilization.


    In late September, the SETI Institute’s Eliot Guillum began setting up the latest LaserSETI hardware in Haleakala, Hawaii.

    LaserSETI observatory installation at Haleakala Observatory in Maui, Hawai’i (US)

    Signals for Proxima Centauri aren’t from aliens

    Shortly before Halloween, researchers published two papers analyzing the signal detected in 2019 by Breakthrough Listen. The signal appeared to originate near Proxima Centauri and generated significant buzz when it was first announced.

    After additional research, SETI scientists concluded the signal most likely didn’t come from aliens but rather malfunctioning equipment on Earth. Dr. Andrew Siemion contributed to both papers and Dr. Sofia Sheikh, who will join the team at the Allen Telescope Array team in January, was the lead author on one.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition
    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), the origins of the Institute’s search.

    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 [Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing] 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 8:52 am on May 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Meteors from rare long-period comets", CAMS-Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance, , Long-period comets may take thousands of years to orbit our sun once., SETI Institute, The CAMS project now has networks of cameras in nine countries including Australia; Chile; and Namibia.   

    From SETI Institute via EarthSky : “Meteors from rare long-period comets” 


    From SETI Institute

    via

    1

    EarthSky

    May 27, 2021
    Kelly Kizer Whitt

    1
    Long-period comets may take thousands of years to orbit our sun once. This artist’s concept shows the meteoroid stream from long-period Comet Thatcher entering the solar system and looping around the sun. The outer blue ellipse is the orbit of Neptune. Comet Thatcher is responsible for April’s Lyrid meteor shower. Image via P. Jenniskens/ SETI Institute.

    Around the world, a network of low-light video security cameras are pointed at dark skies, capturing faint meteors and using triangulation to determine their trajectories and orbits. Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute leads this project, which is called CAMS-Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance. He said in May 2021 that he’s using the data to discover that some long-period comets, with orbits up to 4,000 years long, are the sources of some of the meteors captured by CAMS. The passes of these comets might sometimes create a meteor rain, he said, plus the potential for an impact by a comet. He said:

    “Until recently, we only knew five long-period comets to be parent bodies to one of our meteor showers, but now we identified nine more, and perhaps as many as 15”.

    The results of this new meteor shower survey were published this month in the peer-reviewed journal Icarus.

    CAMS stands for Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance. The project now has networks of cameras in nine countries, including Australia, Chile and Namibia. The thin trail of debris left behind by long-period comets can be hard to detect, but the CAMS network has approximately doubled the number of meteor showers known to come from this type of comet.

    Interactive map of CAMS data

    The worldwide cameras have pinpointed the locations that meteors appear to come from – known as the radiant – and enabled scientists to create an interactive map of the data. The meteors appear as colored dots on the map. Red denotes the fastest meteors and blue the slowest. White dots represent sporadic meteors that do not come from any specific shower. The black dots on the map are stars. You can change the date on the map to find what meteors were detected on a certain date. Jenniskens described the interactive map:

    “These are the shooting stars you see with the unaided eye. By tracing their approach direction, these maps show the sky and the universe around us in a very different light.”

    2
    Taken from the interactive map, the cluster of yellow dots in this diagram are meteors from the Lyrid radiant picked up by CAMS data. These meteors came from the long-period Comet Thatcher. Image via P. Jenniskens/ SETI Institute.

    Comets are not the main source of debris that impacts with Earth. However, historically they have caused some of the biggest impact events due to their large size and fast speed. The new survey results allow these faint, long-distant comets from as far back as 4,000 years to be spotted via the meteors left behind. Jenniskens said:

    “This creates a situational awareness for potentially hazardous comets that were last in near-Earth orbit as far back as 2,000 BC.”

    CAMS data reveal long-period comets

    The team of scientists analyzed their data to find something unexpected: Long-period comet meteor showers can last for many days. Jenniskens said:

    “This was a surprise to me. It probably means that these comets returned to the solar system many times in the past, while their orbits gradually changed over time.”

    The team also discovered that the most dispersed meteor showers show the highest fraction of small meteoroids. Jenniskens explained why this might be:

    “The most dispersed showers are probably the oldest ones. So, this could mean that the larger meteoroids fall apart into smaller meteoroids over time.”

    The team hopes to go even farther into the past with help from CAMS. Jenniskens explained:

    “In the future, with more observations, we may be able to detect fainter showers and trace the orbit of parent comets on even longer orbits.”

    Long-period Comet Thatcher and the Lyrids

    Comet Thatcher, shown in the above mapping examples, is a previously known long-period comet that’s responsible for the Lyrid meteor shower. Thatcher returns to the sun every 415 years, with its next arrival in our vicinity scheduled for approximately 2283 A.D. When not in the inner solar system, Comet Thatcher journeys as far out as 110 astronomical units (AU) from the sun.

    In contrast, Pluto is about 40 AU from the sun.

    4
    View at EarthSky Community Photos. | You don’t have to be an astronomer to capture meteors. This image is from Cecilia Ray in Sedona, Arizona: the Milky Way and a meteor on April 14, 2021. She wrote: “I was running a time lapse of the Milky Way rising. As I went through about 600 images, this meteor appeared only in this photo. Unbelievable. This was my first Milky Way.” Thank you, Cecilia!

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 [Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing] project originated in the Space Science Lab at UC Berkeley.


    BOINCLarge

    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 9:51 am on February 25, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "If Aliens Exist Here’s How We’ll Find Them", , , , , But suppose we are not alone. What evidence would we expect to find?, , Don’t expect mass emigration from Earth. It’s a dangerous delusion to think that space offers an escape from Earth’s problems., Even if messages were being transmitted we may not recognize them as artificial because we may not know how to decode them., Fermi Paradox—the surprise expressed by physicist Enrico Fermi over the absence of any signs for the existence of other intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way., Few doubt machines will gradually surpass or enhance more and more of our distinctively human capabilities., If those hypothetical aliens continued to keep watch what would they witness in the next century?, Let’s think specifically about the future of space exploration. Successful missions such as Viking; Cassini; New Horizons; Juno; and Rosetta were all done with last-century technology., Machine learning is advancing fast as is sensor technology. In contrast the cost gap between crewed and autonomous missions remains huge., , One of the most plausible long-term energy sources available to an advanced technology is starlight., Powerful alien civilizations might build a mega-structure known as a “Dyson Sphere” to harvest stellar energy from one star or many stars or even from an entire galaxy., SETI Institute, SETI so far has focused on the radio part of the spectrum. But we should explore all wavebands including the optical and X-ray band., Suppose aliens existed., Technological evolution of intelligent beings is only just beginning., , The habit of referring to “alien civilizations” may in itself be too restrictive., The most crucial impediment to space flight stems from the intrinsic inefficiency of chemical fuel and the requirement to carry a weight of fuel far exceeding that of the payload., We believe the future of crewed spaceflight lies with privately funded adventurers like SpaceX and Blue Origin., We can realistically expect that during this century the entire solar system—planets; moons; and asteroids—will be explored by flotillas of robotic spacecraft., We would argue that inspirationally led private companies should front all missions involving humans as cut-price high-risk ventures., Will an armada of spacecraft launched from Earth spawn new oases of life elsewhere?   

    From Nautilus: “If Aliens Exist Here’s How We’ll Find Them” 

    From Nautilus

    February 24, 2021
    Martin Rees & Mario Livio

    Suppose aliens existed, and imagine that some of them had been watching our planet for its entire four and a half billion years. What would they have seen? Over most of that vast timespan, Earth’s appearance altered slowly and gradually. Continents drifted; ice cover waxed and waned; successive species emerged, evolved, with many of them becoming extinct.

    But in just a tiny sliver of Earth’s history—the last hundred centuries—the patterns of vegetation altered much faster than before. This signaled the start of agriculture—and later urbanization. The changes accelerated as the human population increased.

    Then came even faster changes. Within just a century, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere began to rise dangerously fast. Radio emissions that couldn’t be explained by natural processes appeared and something else unprecedented happened: Rockets launched from the planet’s surface escaped the biosphere completely. Some spacecraft were propelled into orbits around the Earth; others journeyed to the moon, Mars, Jupiter, and even Pluto.

    If those hypothetical aliens continued to keep watch, what would they witness in the next century? Will a final spasm of activity be followed by silence due to climate change? Or will the planet’s ecology stabilize? Will there be massive terraforming? Will an armada of spacecraft launched from Earth spawn new oases of life elsewhere?

    1
    LASER POWER: A crucial impediment to space flight is the inefficiency of chemical fuel. One day a laser power station, located on Earth, might generate a beam to “push” a craft through space. Credit: NASA / Pat Rawlings (SAIC).

    Let’s think specifically about the future of space exploration. Successful missions such as Viking, Cassini, New Horizons, Juno, and Rosetta were all done with last-century technology.

    NASA/Viking 1 Lander


    NASA Viking 2 Lander

    NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft.

    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft.

    NASA/Juno at Jupiter.

    ESA/Rosetta spacecraft, European Space Agency’s legendary comet explorer Rosetta annotated.

    We can realistically expect that during this century, the entire solar system—planets, moons, and asteroids—will be explored by flotillas of robotic craft.

    Will there still be a role for humans in crewed spacecraft?

    There’s no denying that NASA’s new Perseverance rover speeding across the Jezero crater on Mars may miss some startling discoveries that no human geologist could reasonably overlook.

    Perseverence

    NASA Perseverance Mars Rover annotated.

    But machine learning is advancing fast, as is sensor technology. In contrast, the cost gap between crewed and autonomous missions remains huge.

    We believe the future of crewed spaceflight lies with privately funded adventurers like SpaceX and Blue Origin, prepared to participate in a cut-price program far riskier than western nations could impose on publicly supported projects. These ventures—bringing a Silicon-Valley-type culture into a domain long-dominated by NASA and a few aerospace conglomerates—have innovated and improved rocketry far faster than NASA or the European Space Agency have done. The future role of the national agencies will be attenuated—becoming more akin to an airport rather than to an airline.

    We would argue that inspirationally led private companies should front all missions involving humans as cut-price high-risk ventures. There would still be many volunteers—a few perhaps even accepting one-way tickets—driven by the same motives as early explorers and mountaineers. The phrase “space tourism” should be avoided. It lulls people into believing such ventures are routine and low-risk. If that’s the perception, the inevitable accidents will be as traumatic as those of the space shuttle were. These exploits must be sold as dangerous, extreme sports, or intrepid exploration.

    The most crucial impediment to space flight stems from the intrinsic inefficiency of chemical fuel and the requirement to carry a weight of fuel far exceeding that of the payload. So long as we are dependent on chemical fuels, interplanetary travel will remain a challenge. Nuclear power could be transformative. Allowing much higher in-course speeds would drastically cut the transit times in the solar system, reducing not only astronauts’ boredom, but their exposure to damaging radiation. It’s more efficient if the fuel supply can be on the ground; for instance, propelling spacecraft into orbit via a “space elevator”—and then using a “star-shot”-type laser beam generated on Earth to push on a “sail” attached to the spacecraft.

    By 2100, thrill seekers in the mold of Felix Baumgartner (the Austrian skydiver who in 2012 broke the sound barrier in free fall from a high-altitude balloon) may have established bases on Mars, or maybe even on asteroids. Elon Musk has said he wants to die on Mars—“but not on impact.” It’s a realistic goal, and an alluring one to some.

    But don’t expect mass emigration from Earth. It’s a dangerous delusion to think that space offers an escape from Earth’s problems. We’ve got to solve those here. Coping with climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic may seem daunting, but it’s a piece of cake compared to terraforming Mars. There’s no place in our solar system that offers an environment even as clement as the Antarctic or the top of Mount Everest. Simply put, there’s no Planet B for ordinary risk-averse people.

    Still, we (and our progeny here on Earth) should cheer on the brave space adventurers. They have a pivotal role to play in spearheading the post-human future and determining what happens in the 22nd century and beyond.

    Pioneer explorers will be ill-adapted to their new habitat, so they will have a compelling incentive to re-design themselves. They’ll harness the super-powerful genetic and cyborg technologies that will be developed in coming decades. This might be the first step toward divergence into a new species.

    Organic creatures need a planetary surface environment on which life could emerge and evolve. But if post-humans make the transition to fully inorganic intelligence, they won’t need an atmosphere. They may even prefer zero-gravity, especially for constructing massive artifacts. It’s in deep space that non-biological brains may develop powers that humans can’t even imagine.

    There are chemical and metabolic limits to the size and processing power of organic brains. Maybe we are close to these limits already. But no such limits apply to or constrain electronic computers (still less, perhaps, quantum computers). So, by any definition of “thinking,” the amount and intensity that can be achieved by organic human-type brains will be swamped by the cerebrations of AI.

    We are perhaps near the end of Darwinian evolution, but technological evolution of intelligent beings is only just beginning. It may happen fastest away from Earth—we wouldn’t expect (and certainly wouldn’t wish for) such rapid changes in humanity here on the Earth, though our survival may depend on ensuring the AI on Earth remains “benevolent.”

    Few doubt machines will gradually surpass or enhance more and more of our distinctively human capabilities. Disagreements are only about the timescale on which this will happen. Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil says it will be just a matter of a few decades. More cautious scientists envisage centuries. Either way, the timescales for technological advances are an instant compared to the timescales of the Darwinian evolution that led to humanity’s emergence—and more relevantly, less than a millionth of the vast expanses of cosmic time ahead. The products of future technological evolution could surpass humans by as much as we have surpassed slime mold.

    But, you may wonder, what about consciousness?

    Philosophers and computer scientists debate whether consciousness is something that characterizes only the type of wet, organic brains possessed by humans, apes, and dogs. Would electronic intelligences, even if their intellects would seem superhuman, lack self-awareness? The ability to imagine things that do not exist? An inner life? Or is consciousness an emergent property that any sufficiently complex network will eventually possess? Some say it’s irrelevant and semantic, like asking whether submarines can swim.

    We don’t think it is. If the machines are what computer scientists refer to as “zombies,” we would not accord their experiences the same value as ours, and the post-human future would seem rather bleak. On the other hand, if they are conscious, we should welcome the prospect of their future hegemony.

    What will their guiding motivation be if they become fully autonomous entities? We have to admit we have absolutely no idea. Think of the variety of bizarre motives (ideological, financial, political, egotistical, and religious) that have driven human endeavors in the past. Here’s one simple example of how different they could be from our naive expectations: They could be contemplative. Even less obtrusively, they may realize it’s easier to think at low temperatures, therefore getting far away from any star, or even hibernating for billions of years until the cosmic microwave background cooled down far below its current 3 degrees Kelvin. At the other edge of the spectrum, they could be expansionist, which seems to be the expectation of most who’ve thought about the future trajectory of civilizations.

    Even if life had originated only on Earth, it need not remain a marginal, trivial feature of the cosmos. Humans could jump-start a diaspora whereby ever-more complex intelligence spreads through the galaxy, transcending our limitations. The “sphere of influence” (or some would envisage a “frontier of conquest”) could encompass the entire galaxy, spreading via self-reproducing machines, transmitting DNA or instructions for 3-D printers. The leap to neighboring stars is just an early step in this process. Interstellar voyages—or even intergalactic voyages—would hold no terrors for near-immortals.

    Moreover, even if the only propellants used were the currently known ones, this galactic colonization would take less time, measured from today, than the more than 500 million years elapsed since the Cambrian explosion. And even less than the 55 million years since the advent of primates, if it proceeds relativistically.

    The expansionist scenarios would have the consequence that our descendants would become so conspicuous that any alien civilization would become aware of them.

    The crucial question remains: Are there other expansionists whose domain may impinge on ours?

    We don’t know. The emergence of intelligence may require such a rare chain of events and happenstance contingencies—like winning a lottery—that it has not occurred anywhere else. That will disappoint SETI searchers and explain the so-called Fermi Paradox—the surprise expressed by physicist Enrico Fermi over the absence of any signs for the existence of other intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way. But suppose we are not alone. What evidence would we expect to find?

    2
    The Allen Telescope Array, located at the Hat Creek Observatory in the Cascade Mountains, about 300 miles north of San Francisco, makes astronomical observations and stays attuned to signs of extraterrestrial life. Credit: Seth Shostak / SETI Institute.


    SETI@home, a BOINC [Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing] project originated in the Space Science Lab at UC Berkeley.

    Suppose that there are indeed many other planets where life emerged, and that on some of them Darwinian evolution followed a similar track to the one on Earth. Even then, it’s highly unlikely that the key stages would be synchronized. If the emergence of intelligence and technology on a planet lags significantly behind what has happened on Earth (because, for example, the planet is younger, or because some bottlenecks in evolution have taken longer to negotiate) then that planet would reveal no evidence of ET. Earth itself would probably not have been detected as a life-bearing planet during the first 2 billion years of its existence.

    But around a star older than the sun, life could have had a head start of a billion years or more. Note that the current age of the solar system is about half the age of our galaxy and also half of the sun’s predicted total lifetime. We expect that a significant fraction of the stars in our galaxy are older than the sun.

    The history of human technological civilization is measured in mere millennia. It may be only a few more centuries before humans are overtaken or transcended by inorganic intelligence, which will then persist, continuing to evolve on a faster-than-Darwinian timescale for billions of years. Organic human-level intelligence may be, generically, just a brief interlude before the machines take over, so if alien intelligence had evolved similarly, we’d be most unlikely to catch it in the brief sliver of time when it was still embodied in that form. Were we to detect ET, it would be far more likely to be electronic where the dominant creatures aren’t flesh and blood—and perhaps aren’t even tied to a planetary surface.

    Astronomical observations have now demystified many of the probability factors in the so-called Drake Equation—the probabilistic attempt traditionally used to estimate the number of advanced civilizations in the Milky Way.

    Frank Drake with his Drake Equation. Credit Frank Drake.

    Drake Equation, Frank Drake, Seti Institute.

    The number of potentially habitable planets has changed from being completely unknown only a couple of decades ago to being directly determined from the observations. At the same time, we must reinterpret one of the key factors in the Drake equation. The lifetime of an organic civilization may be millennia at most. But its electronic diaspora could continue for billions of years.

    If SETI succeeded, it would then be unlikely that the signal would be a decodable message. It would more likely reveal a byproduct (or maybe even a malfunction) of some super-complex machine beyond our comprehension.

    The habit of referring to “alien civilizations” may in itself be too restrictive. A civilization connotes a society of individuals. In contrast, ET might be a single integrated intelligence. Even if messages were being transmitted, we may not recognize them as artificial because we may not know how to decode them, in the same way that a veteran radio engineer familiar only with amplitude-modulation (AM) transmission might have a hard time decoding modern wireless communications. Indeed, compression techniques aim to make the signal as close to noise as possible; insofar as a signal is predictable, there’s scope for more compression.

    SETI so far has focused on the radio part of the spectrum. But we should explore all wavebands, including the optical and X-ray band. We should also be alert for other evidence of non-natural phenomena or activity. What might then be a relatively generic signature? Energy consumption, one of the potential hallmarks of an advanced civilization, appears to be hard to conceal.

    One of the most plausible long-term energy sources available to an advanced technology is starlight. Powerful alien civilizations might build a mega-structure known as a “Dyson Sphere” to harvest stellar energy from one star or many stars or even from an entire galaxy.

    The other potential long-term energy source is controlled fusion of hydrogen into heavier nuclei. In both cases, waste heat and a detectable mid-infrared signature would be an inevitable outcome. Or, one might seek evidence for massive artifacts such as the Dyson Sphere itself. Intriguingly, it’s worth looking for artifacts within our own solar system: Maybe we can rule out visits by human-scale aliens, but if an extraterrestrial civilization had mastered nanotechnology and transferred its intelligence to machines, the “invasion” might consist of a swarm of microscopic probes that could have evaded notice. Still, it would be easier to send a radio or laser signal than to traverse the mind-boggling distances of interstellar space.

    Finally, let’s fast forward not for just a few millennia, but for an astronomical timescale, millions of times longer. As interstellar gas will be consumed, the ecology of stellar births and deaths in our galaxy will proceed more gradually, until jolted by the environmental shock of a collision with the Andromeda galaxy, about 4.5 billion years hence. The debris of our galaxy, Andromeda, and their smaller companions (known as the Local Group) will aggregate into one amorphous (or perhaps elliptical) galaxy. Due to the accelerating cosmic expansion, distant galaxies will move farther away, receding faster and faster until they disappear—rather like objects falling into a black hole—encountering a horizon beyond which they are lost from view and causal contact. But the remnants of our Local Group could continue for a far longer time. Long enough perhaps for what has been dubbed a “Kardashev Type III” phenomenon, in which a civilization is using the energy from one or more galaxies, and perhaps even that released from supermassive black holes, to emerge as the culmination of the long-term trend for living systems to gain complexity and negative entropy (a higher degree of order).

    The only limitations set by fundamental physics would be the number of accessible protons (since those can in principle be transmuted into any elements), and the total amount of accessible energy (E=mc2, where m is mass and c is the speed of light) again transformable from one form to another.

    Essentially all the atoms that were once in stars and gas could be transformed into structures as intricate as a living organism or silicon chips but on a cosmic scale. A few science-fiction authors envisage stellar-scale engineering to create black holes and wormholes—concepts far beyond any technological capability that we can imagine, but not in violation of basic physical laws.

    If we want to go to further extremes, the total mass-energy content in the Local Group isn’t the limit of the available resources. It would still be consistent with physical laws for an incredibly advanced civilization to lasso the galaxies that are receding because of the cosmic expansion of space before they accelerate and disappear over the horizon. Such a hyper-intelligent species could pull them in to construct a segment resembling Einstein’s original idea of a static universe in equilibrium, with a mean density such that the cosmic repulsion caused by dark energy is precisely balanced by gravity.

    Everything we’ve said is consistent with the laws of physics and the cosmological model as we understand them. Our speculations assume that the repulsive force causing cosmic acceleration persists (and is described by dark energy or Einstein’s cosmological constant). But we should be open-minded about the possibility that there is much we don’t understand.

    Human brains have changed relatively little since our ancestors roamed the African savannah and coped with the challenges that life then presented. It is surely remarkable that these brains have allowed us to make sense of the quantum subatomic world and the cosmos at large—far removed from the common sense, everyday world in which we have evolved.

    Scientific frontiers are now advancing fast. But we may at some point hit the buffers. There may be phenomena, some of which may be crucial to our long-term destiny, that we are not aware of any more than a gorilla comprehends the nature of stars and galaxies. Physical reality could encompass complexities that neither our intellect nor our senses can grasp. Electronic brains may have a rather different perception of reality. Consequently, we cannot predict or perhaps even understand the motives of such brains. We cannot assess whether the Fermi paradox signifies their absence or simply their preference.

    Conjectures about advanced or intelligent life are shakier than those about simple life. Yet there are three features that may characterize the entities that SETI searches could reveal.

    • Intelligent life is likely not to be organic or biological

    • It will not remain on the surface of the planet where its biological precursor emerged and evolved.

    • We will not be able to fathom the intentions of such life forms.

    Two familiar maxims should pertain to all SETI searches. On one hand, “absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence,” but on the other, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 1:41 pm on December 22, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "An updated way to calculate the likelihood of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations", , , , , , , , , SETI Institute   

    From NASA JPL Caltech and From Caltech via phys.org: “An updated way to calculate the likelihood of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From NASA JPL-Caltech

    and

    Caltech Logo

    From Caltech

    via


    phys.org

    December 22, 2020
    Bob Yirka , Phys.org

    1
    Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

    A small team of researchers from California Institute of Technology, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Santiago High School has developed an updated version of an old equation to calculate the likely existence of extraterrestrial civilizations. The team has uploaded their paper to the arXiv preprint server [A Statistical Estimation of the Occurrence of Extraterrestrial Intelligence in the Milky Way Galaxy].

    Over the span of human history, many have wondered if life exists on other planets—intelligent or otherwise. As new tools have been applied to the question, many space scientists have become convinced that the likelihood of extraterrestrial civilizations developing seems more probable than not given all that has been learned. As other exoplanet systems have been found, many circling stars very similar to our sun, it has become difficult to find anything unique about our own planet to justify a belief that Earth alone ever produced life. In this new effort, the researchers have expanded on research done by Frank Drake back in 1961.

    Frank Drake with his Drake Equation. Credit Frank Drake.


    Drake Equation, Frank Drake, Seti Institute.




    SETI Institute


    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 origins of the Institute’s search.

    He and his colleagues developed an equation (now known as the Drake equation) to calculate the odds of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations—given all that was known about space and astronomical objects back then. The researchers factored in such variables as the number of believed exoplanets and star systems and how many of them were likely to be capable of supporting life.

    Space scientists have learned a lot more about space and celestial objects since Drake’s time—exoplanets have been observed, for example, some in their own Goldilocks zones, and scientists have learned more about the age of the universe and circumstances after the Big Bang. The researchers with this new effort took all the new factors into account and added something else not considered in 1961—the likelihood of other extraterrestrial civilizations arising and then unintentionally killing themselves off. Humans and other animals have a way of destroying their environment. Rats introduced to an island will eat every last scrap of food, for example, and then all of them will starve to death. Humans pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and confront a future in which the planet can no longer support life. The researchers suggest such evidence likely means that if extraterrestrial civilizations have arisen, most of them are probably gone by now due to their inability to prevent their own demise.

    The result of the team’s work is not an estimate of the likelihood of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations, but a new formula that others can use to make their own calculations based on what they believe to be true.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The California Institute of Technology (commonly referred to as Caltech) is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering. Its 124-acre (50 ha) primary campus is located approximately 11 mi (18 km) northeast of downtown Los Angeles. “The mission of the California Institute of Technology is to expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education. We investigate the most challenging, fundamental problems in science and technology in a singularly collegial, interdisciplinary atmosphere, while educating outstanding students to become creative members of society.”

    Caltech campus

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 11:51 am on December 19, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A Signal from Proxima Centauri?", Astronomers with the Breakthrough Listen Project have detected radio emissions from the direction of Proxima Centauri., , , , , , SETI Institute, The Breakthrough Listen folk are careful not to indulge in any chest beating until the signal is subjected to additional observations., The signal was picked up by the Australian Parkes 210-foot radio telescope., Well it might be aliens. Then again in the tradition of Pogo it might just be us- led astray by our own technology.   

    From SETI Institute: “A Signal from Proxima Centauri?” 



    From SETI Institute

    Dec 19, 2020
    By Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer

    1
    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia, 414.80m above sea level.

    Well, it might be aliens. Then again, in the tradition of Pogo it might just be us, led astray by our own technology.

    A story in Britain’s Guardian newspaper today (December 18) reports that astronomers with the Breakthrough Listen Project – the comprehensive radio SETI search being run out of the University of California at Berkeley – has detected radio emissions from the direction of Proxima Centauri.

    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
    Breakthrough Listen Project

    1

    UC Observatories Lick Autmated Planet Finder, fully robotic 2.4-meter optical telescope at Lick Observatory, situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California, 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


    SKA SARAO Meerkat telescope, 90 km outside the small Northern Cape town of Carnarvon, SA.


    Newly added

    CfA/VERITAS, a major ground-based gamma-ray observatory with an array of four Čerenkov Telescopes for gamma-ray astronomy in the GeV – TeV energy range. Located at Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory,Mount Hopkins, Arizona, US in AZ, USA, Altitude 2,606 m (8,550 ft)


    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

    That’s the closest star system to us, a mere 4.2 light-years away, and it’s known to be accompanied by at least two planets.

    The signal was picked up by the Parkes 210-foot radio telescope in sheep country about 190 miles inland from Sydney, Australia. Because Proxima Centauri is only visible in the southern sky, you need a “down under” telescope to observe it.

    But does this mean that SETI researchers have finally stumbled upon their holy grail, a radio emission that could only come from a deliberately constructed transmitter on another world? It’s possible, of course. But the Breakthrough Listen folk are careful not to indulge in any chest beating until the signal is subjected to additional observations.

    So, what are the possible implications of this finding? Let us count the ways:

    To begin, the signal apparently varies slightly in frequency, wobbling up and down the radio dial. So it’s not coming from an antenna bolted to the ground here on Earth. That immediately makes it non-terrestrial by definition, but still doesn’t certify it as alien.

    Indeed, it just might be a telemetry signal from an orbiting satellite. The orbital motion of these satellites cause their transmissions to rise and fall in frequency, after all. And while you might think that the chances of accidentally tuning in a satellite are not great, you should think again. There are more than 2,700 functioning satellites buzzing our planet, providing information on the weather, imagery for Google Earth, GPS signals for navigation, and high-resolution photos for the military, just to name a few. This flood of information from hardware a few hundred miles above our heads is obviously important for a high-tech lifestyle, but it jams a lot of the radio spectrum. SETI scientists are trying to find a needle in a pile of pins.

    But if it’s not a satellite signal, what else might it be? It’s possible that the signal is actually coming from something behind Proxima Centauri that just happens to line up with it. There’s an example of this coming your way next week, when Jupiter will seem to be intruding upon Saturn’s personal space as the two planets get close in the evening sky. On December 21, their separation will be only 6 arcmin, or about the width of a dime held at 20 feet. But of course Jupiter and Saturn won’t actually be close. You’d find 500 million miles of uninteresting space behind Jupiter before you encountered the ring thing. They just appear to line up.

    So maybe that’s what’s going on: the signal’s not coming from Proxima Centauri, but from something else far beyond it. Maybe, but that would still be extremely interesting, as natural radio signals – the type produced by quasars, pulsars, and many other members of the cosmic bestiary – are not narrow-band. They’re not confined to a small range of frequencies, and this signal might be.

    Of course, there’s always the possibility that the signal is really, really local. A microwave oven in the break room of the Parkes radio telescope caused considerable consternation five years ago when it produced signals that, at first, suggested that something remarkable was happening in the distant cosmos. In fact, it was just someone heating up lunch.

    So, given even this short laundry list, we see that there are several possible explanations for the signal that are, regrettably, rather prosaic. Yes, as long as we still don’t know, we should continue to consider the alien hypothesis viable. After all, any SETI detection is going to be dicey when we first make it … there will be plenty of calls for restraint intended to pacify the all-too-eager. But it’s reasonable to expect that someday one of these suspicious signals will, indeed, be the sought-after proof of intelligence on another world.

    Caution is often a good idea, but one must be careful not to toss the baby with the bathwater. After all, this baby could change our concept of the cosmos.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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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 [Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing] project originated in the Space Science Lab at UC Berkeley.


    BOINCLarge

    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 7:27 pm on December 5, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Celestial Mystery: Interplanetary Object or a Human-made 'Asteroid?'", , , , , SETI Institute   

    From SETI Institute: “Celestial Mystery: Interplanetary Object or a Human-made ‘Asteroid?'” 



    From SETI Institute

    Dec 4, 2020
    Franck M.


    2020SO: Not a mini-moon but a space trash?!

    Interplanetary threat or human-made traveler? That’s the mystery of 2020 SO1, a Near-Earth Asteroid (a population of asteroids with an orbit very close to Earth), discovered in August 2020 by the Hawaiian ground-based telescope Pan-STARRS1.

    Pan-STARRS 1, located at the summit of Haleakalā on Maui, Hawaii, Hawaii USA , Altitude 3,052 m (10,013 ft).

    After spotting 2020 SO1, astronomers observed it continuously and estimated that this small 5m-asteroid would pass near Earth on December 1, 2020. Several citizen astronomers around the world, including members of the Unistellar network, collaborated to capture it. And one of them got it!

    Mario Billiani, a Unistellar citizen astronomer located in Vienna, Austria, captured the object from his home. The observation was challenging because the target was faint for the 4.6” aperture digital telescope, and it was moving very fast in the sky. Together with our science team at the SETI Institute, Mario learned how to calculate the asteroid’s location from his home using the NASA-JPL ephemeris.

    2
    We reported Mario’s observation to the Minor Planet Center and, along with other observations taken by professional and amateur astronomers around the world, will help refine 2020SO1’s orbit.

    The video below clearly shows how unusual this orbit is. In March 2020, after a close encounter with Earth, the body will stay in the so-called Hill sphere (the gravitational sphere of influence around Earth) and come back near Earth in February. It will leave the Earth-Moon system in March.


    2020SO Unistellar

    There are strong suspicions that this asteroid is not, in fact, a relic of the formation of our solar system, but instead a human-made object. Soon after its discovery, astronomers pointed out its orbit, which is very similar to Earth’s. Additionally, they noticed that this is an unusually slow asteroid, ten times slower than most asteroids. Finally, they think they have measured a small deflection on its orbit, which could be due to an interaction with the solar wind, as if the object was bright and hollow.

    This asteroid may be, in fact, a Centaur upper rocket booster that launched NASA’s Surveyor 2 lander to the moon in 1966. Now, 50 years later, has the rocket part returned to us as simulated in the peculiar orbit shown below?


    OrbitSimulatorTrimmed

    The only way to be 100 percent certain is to image 2020 SO1 directly; that’s only possible through telescopes equipped with adaptive optics when it is very close to us. Alternatively, we can continue to observe it and confirm this interesting but unnatural deflection.

    Yesterday, a team of astronomers led by Vishnu Reddy from the University of Arizona announced that they managed to observe this object with the NASA IRTF telescope located in Hawaii on the top of Mauna Kea.

    NASA Infrared Telescope facility Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA, 4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level.

    The spectrum, which is the decomposition of the asteroid’s light in a wide range of color, seems to be similar to a Centaur D rocket booster launched in 1971 and currently in geostationary orbit.

    This exciting result needs to be confirmed, but it implies that 2020SO1 is human-made if it is true. We thought we had found a new moon for Earth, but this may be debris we left in the solar system. Definitely less appealing or romantic.

    If you missed it, don’t worry – it will be back in February 2021. We may be able to observe it then, even with a small telescope.

    In the meantime, look up and enjoy the universe, which is always full of mysteries.

    3
    A Centaur upper stage is pictured being lifted onto the first stage booster of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Credit: NASA/Roy Allison.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 [Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing] project originated in the Space Science Lab at UC Berkeley.


    BOINCLarge

    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 9:13 am on December 5, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , SETI Institute, , The Aliens- where are they?, ,   

    From The Conversation: “I’m an astronomer and I think aliens may be out there – but UFO sightings aren’t persuasive” 

    From The Conversation

    December 4, 2020

    Chris Impey
    University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy,
    University of Arizona

    1
    Many people who say they have seen UFOs are either dog walkers or smokers. Credit:Aaron Foster/THeImage Bank/Getty Images.

    If intelligent aliens visit the Earth, it would be one of the most profound events in human history.

    Surveys show that nearly half of Americans believe that aliens have visited the Earth, either in the ancient past or recently. That percentage has been increasing. Belief in alien visitation is greater than belief that Bigfoot is a real creature, but less than belief that places can be haunted by spirits.

    Scientists dismiss these beliefs as not representing real physical phenomena. They don’t deny the existence of intelligent aliens. But they set a high bar for proof that we’ve been visited by creatures from another star system. As Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    I’m a professor of astronomy who has written extensively on the search for life in the universe. I also teach a free online class on astrobiology. Full disclosure: I have not personally seen a UFO.

    Unidentified flying objects

    UFO means unidentified flying object. Nothing more, nothing less.

    There’s a long history of UFO sightings. Air Force studies of UFOs have been going on since the 1940s. In the United States, “ground zero” for UFOs occurred in 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico. The fact that the Roswell incident was soon explained as the crash landing of a military high-altitude balloon didn’t stem a tide of new sightings. The majority of UFOs appear to people in the United States. It’s curious that Asia and Africa have so few sightings despite their large populations, and even more surprising that the sightings stop at the Canadian and Mexican borders.

    Most UFOs have mundane explanations. Over half can be attributed to meteors, fireballs and the planet Venus. Such bright objects are familiar to astronomers but are often not recognized by members of the public. Reports of visits from UFOs inexplicably peaked about six years ago.

    Many people who say they have seen UFOs are either dog walkers or smokers. Why? Because they’re outside the most. Sightings concentrate in evening hours, particularly on Fridays, when many people are relaxing with one or more drinks.

    A few people, like former NASA employee James Oberg, have the fortitude to track down and find conventional explanations for decades of UFO sightings. Most astronomers find the hypothesis of alien visits implausible, so they concentrate their energy on the exciting scientific search for life beyond the Earth.


    Animated Maps: A Century of UFO Sightings.
    Most UFO sightings have been in the United States.

    Are we alone?

    While UFOs continue to swirl in the popular culture, scientists are trying to answer the big question that is raised by UFOs: Are we alone?

    Astronomers have discovered over 4,000 exoplanets, or planets orbiting other stars, a number that doubles every two years. Some of these exoplanets are considered habitable, since they are close to the Earth’s mass and at the right distance from their stars to have water on their surfaces. The nearest of these habitable planets are less than 20 light years away, in our cosmic “back yard.” Extrapolating from these results leads to a projection of 300 million habitable worlds in our galaxy. Each of these Earth-like planets is a potential biological experiment, and there have been billions of years since they formed for life to develop and for intelligence and technology to emerge.

    Astronomers are very confident there is life beyond the Earth. As astronomer and ace exoplanet-hunter Geoff Marcy, puts it, “The universe is apparently bulging at the seams with the ingredients of biology.” There are many steps in the progression from Earths with suitable conditions for life to intelligent aliens hopping from star to star. Astronomers use the Drake Equation to estimate the number of technological alien civilizations in our galaxy.

    Frank Drake with his Drake Equation. Credit Frank Drake.


    Drake Equation, Frank Drake, Seti Institute.

    There are many uncertainties in the Drake Equation, but interpreting it in the light of recent exoplanet discoveries makes it very unlikely that we are the only, or the first, advanced civilization.

    This confidence has fueled an active search for intelligent life, which has been unsuccessful so far.



    SETI@home, a BOINC [Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing] project originated in the Space Science Lab at UC Berkeley.

    So researchers have recast the question “Are we alone?” to “Where are they?”

    6
    “WoW!” signal from Ohio State Big Ear Radio Telescope Aug. 15, 1977.

    The absence of evidence for intelligent aliens is called the Fermi Paradox. Even if intelligent aliens do exist, there are a number of reasons why we might not have found them and they might not have found us. Scientists do not discount the idea of aliens. But they aren’t convinced by the evidence to date because it is unreliable, or because there are so many other more mundane explanations.

    Modern myth and religion

    UFOs are part of the landscape of conspiracy theories, including accounts of abduction by aliens and crop circles created by aliens. I remain skeptical that intelligent beings with vastly superior technology would travel trillion of miles just to press down our wheat.

    It’s useful to consider UFOs as a cultural phenomenon. Diana Pasulka, a professor at the University of North Carolina, notes that myths and religions are both means for dealing with unimaginable experiences. To my mind, UFOs have become a kind of new American religion.

    So no, I don’t think belief in UFOs is crazy, because some flying objects are unidentified, and the existence of intelligent aliens is scientifically plausible.

    But a study of young adults did find that UFO belief is associated with schizotypal personality, a tendency toward social anxiety, paranoid ideas and transient psychosis. If you believe in UFOs, you might look at what other unconventional beliefs you have.

    I’m not signing on to the UFO “religion,” so call me an agnostic. I recall the aphorism popularized by Carl Sagan, “It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.”

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Conversation launched as a pilot project in October 2014. It is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public.
    Our team of professional editors work with university and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.
    Access to independent, high quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism underpins a functioning democracy. Our aim is to promote better understanding of current affairs and complex issues. And hopefully allow for a better quality of public discourse and conversation.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:22 am on July 26, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The real science behind SETI’s hunt for intelligent aliens", , , , , , , SETI Institute,   

    From ars technica: “The real science behind SETI’s hunt for intelligent aliens” 

    From ars technica

    7/25/2020
    Madeleine O’Keefe

    1
    Aurich Lawson / Getty

    In 1993, a team of scientists published a paper in the scientific journal Nature that announced the detection of a planet harboring life. Using instruments on the spacecraft Galileo, they imaged the planet’s surface and saw continents with colors “compatible with mineral soils” and agriculture, large expanses of ocean with “spectacular reflection,” and frozen water at the poles.

    NASA/Galileo 1989-2003

    An analysis of the planet’s chemistry revealed an atmosphere with oxygen and methane so abundant that they must come from biological sources. “Galileo found such profound departures from equilibrium that the presence of life seems the most probable cause,” the authors wrote.

    But the most telltale sign of life was measured by Galileo’s spectrogram: radio transmissions from the planet’s surface. “Of all Galileo science measurements, these signals provide the only indication of intelligent, technological life,” wrote the authors.

    The paper’s first author was Carl Sagan, the astronomer, author, and science communicator. The planet that he and his co-authors described was Earth.

    Twenty years later, as far as we can tell, Earth remains the only planet in the Universe with any life, intelligent or otherwise. But that Galileo fly-by of Earth was a case study for future work. It confirmed that modern instruments can give us hints about the presence of life on other planets—including intelligent life. And since then, we’ve dedicated decades of funding and enthusiasm to look for life elsewhere in the Universe.

    But one component of this quest has, for the most part, been overlooked: the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). This is the field of astronomical research that looks for alien civilizations by searching for indicators of technology called “technosignatures.” Despite strong support from Sagan himself (he even made SETI the focus of his 1985 science-fiction novel Contact, which was turned into a hit movie in 1997 starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey), funding and support for SETI have been paltry compared to the search for extraterrestrial life in general.

    Throughout SETI’s 60-year history, a stalwart group of astronomers has managed to keep the search alive. Today, this cohort is stronger than ever, though they are mostly ignored by the research community, largely unfunded by NASA, and dismissed by some astronomers as a campy fringe pursuit. After decades of interest and funding dedicated toward the search for biological life, there are tentative signs that SETI is making a resurgence.

    At a time when we’re in the process of building hardware that should be capable of finding signatures of life (intelligent or otherwise) in the atmospheres of other planets, SETI astronomers simply want a seat at the table. The stakes are nothing less than the question of our place in the Universe.

    2
    The Arecibo Radio Telescope on Puerto Rico [recently unfunded by NSF and now picked up by UCF and a group of funders] receives interplanetary signals and transmissions. And it was in the movie Contact!

    How to search for life on other worlds

    You may have heard of searching for life on other planets by looking for “biosignatures”—molecules or phenomena that would only occur or persist if life were present. These could be microbes discovered by directly sampling material from the planet (known as “in-situ sampling”) or using spectroscopic biosignatures, like chemical disequilibria in the atmosphere and images of water and agriculture, like those detected by the Galileo probe in 1990.

    The biosignature search is happening now, but it comes with limitations. In-situ sampling requires sending a spacecraft to another planet; we’ve done this, for example, with rovers sent to Mars and the Cassini spacecraft that sampled plumes of water erupting from Saturn’s moon Enceladus. And while in-situ sampling is the ideal option for planets in the Solar System, with our current technology, it will take millennia to get a vehicle to a planet orbiting a different star—and these exoplanets are far, far more numerous.

    To detect spectroscopic biosignatures we will need telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) or the ground-based Extremely Large Telescope, both currently under construction.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    ESO/E-ELT, 39 meter telescope to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. located at the summit of the mountain at an altitude of 3,060 metres (10,040 ft).

    To directly image an exoplanet and obtain more definitive spectra will require future missions like LUVOIR (Large Ultraviolet Optical Infrared Surveyor) or the Habitable Exoplanet Imaging Mission. But all of these lie a number of years in the future.

    NASA Large UV Optical Infrared Surveyor (LUVOIR)

    NASA Habitable Exoplanet Imaging Mission (HabEx) The Planet Hunter depiction

    SETI researchers, however, are interested in “technosignatures”—biosignatures that indicate intelligent life. They are signals that could only come from technology, including TV and radio transmitters—like the radio transmission detected by the Galileo spacecraft—planetary radar systems, or high-power lasers.

    The first earnest call to search for technosignatures—and SETI’s formal beginning—came in 1959. That was the year that Cornell University physicists Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison published a landmark paper in Nature outlining the most likely characteristics of alien communication. It would make the most sense, they postulated, for aliens to communicate across interstellar distances using electromagnetic waves since they are the only media known to travel fast enough to conceivably reach us across vast distances of space. Within the electromagnetic spectrum, Cocconi and Morrison determined that it would be most promising to look for radio waves because they are less likely to be absorbed by planetary atmospheres and require less energy to transmit. Specifically, they proposed a narrowband signal around the frequency at which hydrogen atoms emit radiation—a frequency that should be familiar to any civilization with advanced radio technology.

    What’s special about these signals is that they exhibit high degrees of coherence, meaning there is a large amount of electromagnetic energy in just one frequency or a very small instance of time—not something nature typically does.

    “As far as we know, these kinds of [radio] signals would be unmistakable indicators of technology,” says Andrew Siemion, professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley. “We don’t know of any natural source that produces them.”

    Such a signal was detected on August 18, 1977 by the Ohio State University Radio Observatory, known as “Big Ear.”

    Ohio State Big Ear Radio Telescope, Construction of the Big Ear began in 1956 and was completed in 1961, and it was finally turned on for the first time in 1963

    Astronomy professor Jerry Ehman was analyzing Big Ear data in the form of printouts that, to the untrained eye, looked like someone had simply smashed the number row of a typewriter with a preference for lower digits. Numbers and letters in the Big Ear data indicated, essentially, the intensity of the electromagnetic signal picked up by the telescope, starting at 1 and moving up to letters in the double-digits (A was 10, B was 11, and so on). Most of the page was covered in 1s and 2s, with a stray 6 or 7 sprinkled in.

    But that day, Ehman found an anomaly: 6EQUJ5. This signal had started out at an intensity of 6—already an outlier on the page—climbed to E, then Q, peaked at U—the highest power signal Big Ear had ever seen—then decreased again. Ehman circled the sequence in red pen and wrote “Wow!” next to it.

    Alas, SETI researchers have never been able to detect the so-called “Wow! Signal” again, despite many tries with radio telescopes around the world. To this day, no one knows the source of the Wow! Signal, and it remains one of the strongest candidates for alien transmission ever detected.

    NASA began funding SETI studies in 1975, a time when the idea of extraterrestrial life was still unthinkable, according to former NASA Chief Historian Steven J. Dick. After all, no one then knew if there were even other planets outside our Solar System, much less life.

    In 1992, NASA made its strongest-ever commitment to SETI, pledging $100 million over ten years to fund the High Resolution Microwave Survey (HRMS), an expansive SETI project led by astrophysicist Jill Tarter.

    5
    Jill Tarter

    One of today’s most prominent SETI researchers, Tarter was the inspiration for the protagonist of Sagan’s Contact, Eleanor Arroway.

    But less than a year after HRMS got underway, Congress abruptly canceled the project. “The Great Martian Chase may finally come to an end,” said Senator Richard Bryan of Nevada, one of its most vocal detractors. “As of today, millions have been spent and we have yet to bag a single little green fellow. Not a single Martian has said take me to your leader, and not a single flying saucer has applied for FAA approval.”

    The whole ordeal was “incredibly traumatic,” says Tarter. “It [the removal of funding] was so vindictive that, in fact, we became the four-letter S-word that you couldn’t say at NASA headquarters for decades.”

    Since that humiliating public reprimand by Congress, NASA’s astrobiology division has been largely focused on searching for biosignatures. And it has made sure to distinguish its current work from SETI, going so far as to say in a 2015 report that “the traditional Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence… is not a part of astrobiology.”

    Despite or because of this, the SETI community quickly regrouped and headed to the private sector for funding. Out of those efforts came Project Phoenix, rising from the ashes of the HRMS. From February 1995 to March 2004, Phoenix scanned about 800 nearby candidate stars for microwave transmission in three separate campaigns with the Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, Australia; the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia; and Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico [above].

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia, 414.80m above sea level

    Green Bank Radio Telescope, West Virginia, USA, now the center piece of the GBO, Green Bank Observatory, being cut loose by the NSF

    The project did not find any signs of E.T., but it was considered the most comprehensive and sensitive SETI program ever conducted.

    At the same time, other projects run by the Planetary Society and UC Berkeley (including a project called SERENDIP, which is still active) carried out SETI experiments and found a handful of anomalous radio signals, but none showed up a second time.

    To search or not to search

    There is plenty of understandable skepticism surrounding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. At first glance, one might reason that biosignatures are more common than technosignatures and therefore easier to detect. After all, complex life takes a long time to develop and so is probably rarer. But as astronomer and SETI researcher Jason Wright points out, “Slimes and fungus and molds and things are extremely hard to detect [on an exoplanet]. They’re not doing anything to get your attention. They’re not commanding energy resources that might be obvious at interstellar distances.”

    Linda Billings, a communications consultant for NASA’s Astrobiology Division, is not so convinced that SETI is worth it. She worked with SETI in the early 1990s when it was still being funded by the space agency.

    “I felt like there was a resistance to providing a realistic depiction of the SETI search, of how limited it is, how little of our own galaxy that we are capable of detecting in radio signals,” Billings says.

    While she supports NASA’s biosignature searches, she feels that there are too many assumptions embedded into the idea that intelligent aliens would emit signals that we can intercept and understand, so the likelihood of successfully detecting technosignatures is too low.

    What is the likelihood of encountering extraterrestrial intelligence? Astronomers have thought about this question and have even tried to quantify it, most famously in the Drake equation, introduced by radio astronomer Frank Drake in 1961. The equation estimates the number of active and communicative alien civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy by considering seven factors:

    Frank Drake with his Drake Equation. Credit Frank Drake

    Drake Equation, Frank Drake, Seti Institute

    Since these values have been largely conjectural, the Drake equation has served as more of a thought exercise than a precise calculation of probability. But SETI skeptics reason that the equation’s huge uncertainties render the search futile until we know more.

    Plus, the question remains as to whether we are looking the “right” way. By assuming aliens will transmit radio waves, SETI researchers also assume that alien civilizations must have intelligence similar to humans’. But intelligence—like life—could develop elsewhere in ways we can’t possibly imagine. So for some, the small chance that aliens are sending out radio transmissions isn’t enough to justify the search.

    Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, defended the radio approach in a blog post honoring Frank Drake’s 90th birthday earlier this year. “…[A] search for radio transmissions is not a parochial enterprise,” he wrote. “It doesn’t assume that the aliens are like us in any particular, only that they live in the same Universe, with the same physics.”

    SETI researchers can also cast a much wider net with their radio searches: Optical telescopes looking for biosignatures can only resolve data from exoplanets within a few tens of light-years, totaling to no more than 100 tractable targets. But existing radio observatories, like those at Green Bank and in Arecibo, can detect signals as far as 10,000 light-years away, producing 10-million more targets than biosignature search methods.

    The SETI community has no desire to stop the search for biosignatures. “Technosignatures and biosignatures both lie under the same umbrella that we call ‘astrobiology,’ so we are trying to learn from each other,” says Tarter.

    The current state of SETI

    Since the 1990s, new discoveries have strengthened the case to search for technosignatures. For example, NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has identified over 4,000 exoplanets, and Kepler data suggest that half of all stars may harbor Earth-sized exoplanets, many of which may be the right distance from their stars to be conducive to life.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope, and K2 March 7, 2009 until November 15, 2018

    NASA/MIT TESS replaced Kepler in search for exoplanets

    Plus, the discovery of extremophiles—organisms that can grow and thrive in extreme temperature, acidity, or pressure—has shown astrobiologists that life exists in environments previously assumed to be inhospitable.

    But of the two arms of the search for life, SETI is still up against a perception problem—what some call a “giggle factor.” What does it take for SETI to be taken seriously? There are some indications that the perception problem is solving itself, albeit slowly.

    In 2015, SETI got a much-needed injection of cash—and faith—when Russian-born billionaire Yuri Milner pledged $100 million over 10 years to form the Breakthrough Initiatives, including Breakthrough Listen, a SETI project based at UC Berkeley and directed by Andrew Siemion.

    Breakthrough Listen Project

    1

    UC Observatories Lick Autmated Planet Finder, fully robotic 2.4-meter optical telescope at Lick Observatory, situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California, 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


    SKA Meerkat telescope, 90 km outside the small Northern Cape town of Carnarvon, SA

    Newly added

    CfA/VERITAS, a major ground-based gamma-ray observatory with an array of four Čerenkov Telescopes for gamma-ray astronomy in the GeV – TeV energy range. Located at Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory,Mount Hopkins, Arizona, US in AZ, USA, Altitude 2,606 m (8,550 ft)

    As the name suggests, Breakthrough Listen’s goal is to listen for signs of intelligent life. Breakthrough Listen has access to more than a dozen facilities around the world, including the NRAO in Green Bank, the Arecibo Observatory, and the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa.

    A few years later in 2018, NASA—prodded by SETI fan and Texas Congressman Lamar Smith—hosted a technosignatures workshop at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas. Over the course of three days, SETI scientists including Wright and Siemion met and discussed the current state of technosignature searches and how NASA could contribute to the field’s future. But Smith retired from Congress that same year, which put SETI’s future with federal funding back into question.

    In March 2019, Pennsylvania State University announced the new Penn State Extraterrestrial Intelligence Center (PSETI)—to be led by Wright, who is an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the school. One of just two astrobiology PhD programs in the world (the other is at UCLA), PSETI plans on hosting the first Penn State SETI Symposium in June 2021.

    Some of PSETI’s main goals are to permanently fund SETI research worldwide, train the next generation of SETI practitioners, and support and foster a worldwide SETI community. These elements are important to any scientific endeavor but are currently lacking in the small field, even with initiatives like Breakthrough Listen. According to a recent white paper, only five people in the US have ever earned a PhD with SETI as the focus of their dissertations, and that number won’t be growing rapidly any time soon.

    “If you can’t propose for grants to work on a topic, it’s really difficult to convince young graduate students and postdocs to work in the field, because they don’t really see a future in it,” says Siemion.

    Tarter agrees that community and funding are the essential ingredients to SETI’s future. “We sort of lost a generation of scientists and engineers in this fallow period where a few of us could manage to keep this going,” she says. “A really well-educated, larger population of young exploratory scientists—and a stable path to allow them to pursue this large question into the future—is what we need.”

    Wright often calls SETI low-hanging fruit. “This field has been starved of resources for so long that there is still a ton of work to do that could have been done decades ago,” says Wright. “We can very quickly make a lot of progress in this field without a lot of effort.” This is made clear in Wright’s SETI graduate course at Penn State, in which his students’ final projects have sometimes become papers that get published in peer-reviewed journals—something that rarely happens in any other field of astronomy.

    In February 2020, Penn State graduate student Sofia Sheikh submitted a paper to The Astrophysical Journal outlining a survey of 20 stars in the “restricted Earth Transit Zone,” the area of the sky in which an observer on another planet could see Earth pass in front of the sun. Sheikh didn’t find any technosignatures in the direction of those 20 stars, but her paper is one of a number of events in the past year that seem to signal the resurgence of SETI.

    In July 2019, Breakthrough Listen announced a collaboration with VERITAS, an array of gamma-ray telescopes in Arizona [above]. VERITAS agreed to spend 30 hours per year looking at Breakthrough Listen’s targets for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence starting in 2021. Breakthrough Listen also announced, in March 2020, that it will soon partner with the NRAO to use the Very Large Array (VLA), an array of radio telescopes in Socorro, New Mexico.

    NRAO/Karl V Jansky Expanded Very Large Array, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA, at an elevation of 6970 ft (2124 m)

    (Coincidentally, the VLA was featured in the film Contact but was never actually used in SETI research.)

    And there are other forthcoming projects that take advantage of alternate avenues to search. Optical SETI instruments, like PANOSETI, will look for bright pulses in optical or near-infrared light that could be artificial in origin. Similarly, LaserSETI will use inexpensive, wide-field, astronomical grade cameras to probe the whole sky, all the time, for brief flickers of laser light coming from deep space. However, neither PANOSETI nor LaserSETI are fully funded.

    Panoseti

    LASERSETi

    Just last month, though, NASA did award a grant to a group of scientists to search for technosignatures. It is the first time NASA has given funding to a non-radio technosignature search, and it’s also the first grant to support work at PSETI. The project team, led by Adam Frank from the University of Rochester, includes Jason Wright.

    “It’s a great sign that the winds are changing at NASA,” Wright said in an email. He credits NASA’s 2018 technosignatures workshop as a catalyst that led NASA to relax its stance against SETI research. “We have multiple proposals in to NASA right now to do more SETI work across its science portfolio and I’m more optimistic now that it will be fairly judged against the rest of the proposals.”

    Despite all the obstacles in their path, today’s SETI researchers have no plans to stop searching. After all, they are trying to answer one of the most profound and captivating questions in the entire Universe: are we alone?

    “You can certainly get a little tired and a little beat down by the challenges associated with any kind of job. We’re certainly not immune from that in SETI or in astronomy,” admits Siemion. “But you need only take 30 seconds to just contemplate the fact that you’re potentially on the cusp of making really an incredibly profound discovery—a discovery that would forever change the human view of our place in the universe. And, you know, it gets you out of bed.”

    SETI Institute

    Laser SETI, the future of SETI Institute research

    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 origins of the Institute’s search.

    ____________________________________________________

    Further to the story

    UCSC alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego, discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument, developed at the Dunlap Institute, U Toronto and brought to UCSD and installed at the Nickel telescope at UCSC (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

    Shelley Wright of UC San Diego, with NIROSETI, developed at Dunlap Institute U Toronto, at the 1-meter Nickel Telescope at Lick Observatory at UC Santa Cruz

    NIROSETI team from left to right Rem Stone UCO Lick Observatory Dan Werthimer UC Berkeley Jérôme Maire U Toronto, Shelley Wright UCSD Patrick Dorval, U Toronto Richard Treffers Starman Systems. (Image by Laurie Hatch)

    LASERSETI

    And separately and not connected to the SETI Institute

    SETI@home a BOINC project based at UC Berkeley


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


    For transparency, I am a financial supporter of the SETI Institute. I was a BOINC cruncher for many years.

    My BOINC

    I am also a financial supporter of UC Santa Cruz and Dunlap Institute at U Toronto.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Ars Technica was founded in 1998 when Founder & Editor-in-Chief Ken Fisher announced his plans for starting a publication devoted to technology that would cater to what he called “alpha geeks”: technologists and IT professionals. Ken’s vision was to build a publication with a simple editorial mission: be “technically savvy, up-to-date, and more fun” than what was currently popular in the space. In the ensuing years, with formidable contributions by a unique editorial staff, Ars Technica became a trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, breakdowns of the latest scientific advancements, gadget reviews, software, hardware, and nearly everything else found in between layers of silicon.

    Ars Technica innovates by listening to its core readership. Readers have come to demand devotedness to accuracy and integrity, flanked by a willingness to leave each day’s meaningless, click-bait fodder by the wayside. The result is something unique: the unparalleled marriage of breadth and depth in technology journalism. By 2001, Ars Technica was regularly producing news reports, op-eds, and the like, but the company stood out from the competition by regularly providing long thought-pieces and in-depth explainers.

    And thanks to its readership, Ars Technica also accomplished a number of industry leading moves. In 2001, Ars launched a digital subscription service when such things were non-existent for digital media. Ars was also the first IT publication to begin covering the resurgence of Apple, and the first to draw analytical and cultural ties between the world of high technology and gaming. Ars was also first to begin selling its long form content in digitally distributable forms, such as PDFs and eventually eBooks (again, starting in 2001).

     
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