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  • richardmitnick 8:26 am on October 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Rosalba Bonnacorsi, SETI Institute, Underground Laboratories for Dark Matter Research,   

    From SETI Institute: Women in STEM -“Catch Up with SETI Institute Scientist Rosalba Bonnacorsi on her NASA Spaceward Bound Expedition to the Center of the Earth (Almost!) 

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    SETI Institute

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    SETI Institute Astrobiology Scientist Rosalba Bonnacorsi

    October 16, 2017

    For two weeks in October, from the 8th-20th, SETI Institute scientist Rosalba Bonnacorsi will be part of the expedition team when NASA Spaceward Bound and the U.K. Centre for Astrobiology conduct a planetary analog expedition in the Boulby Mine. Boulby is the site of the astrobiology analog research with the Mine Analog Research Program (MINAR)

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    The Boulby International Subsurface Astrobiology Laboratory (BISAL) is hosted by the Boulby Mine complex north of Whitby, Yorkshire, on the North East coast of England (UK).

    The Boulby Mine is a 1.1 km-deep active potash mine at the core of a 250-million-year-old, massive sequence of NaCl, KCl, and sulfates salts. The salts were formed by the evaporation of an ancient ocean – the Zechstein Sea — which covered most of present day Western Europe during the Permian geologic period. The facility comprises over 1,000 km of underground roadways through the salt deposits. BISAL is a fully air conditioned, internet connected to the surface (100 Mbps) laboratory, with an outside ‘Mars yard’ for testing rover and instrument technology. The facility is also used for studies of astrophysics – the Underground Laboratories for Dark Matter Research, and low-background radiation and other deep underground science.

    The expedition is made up of an international team of scientists, teachers, engineers, biologists, geologists and astronauts. Scientists and educators from NASA and the SETI Institute will work on a variety of science and technology projects which will address some specific scientific questions and test a variety of potential technologies and planetary exploration protocols in the mine:

    Scientific Questions:

    Does ancient salt preserve viable organisms?
    What biosignatures of life are preserved in deep salts?
    What types of organisms inhabit deep brines?
    What are the environmental conditions that support life in salt?
    What is the composition and structure of evaporite deposits?
    Where does the deep subsurface gas comes from? Is this from biology or from geology?
    How we can apply what we learn in MINAR5 to the search for past and present life on other planets?

    Testing:

    Life detection technology
    Clean sampling technologies
    Autonomous drones and rover technology for deep subsurface exploration and mapping on the Moon and Mars
    Gas detection technology
    Communication protocols with the surface to simulate cave and lava tube exploration on the Moon and Mars

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    Entrance to the mine (Image Credit: Boulby Mine)

    The team will explore and study a variety of ancient salt structures and briny environments. The primary objectives are to detect evidence of ancient and modern life inside the salt and to monitor the associated underground microclimate (temperature and rH). They will scout Boulby’s underworld, and test for the most efficient protocols for accepting sampling as well as in situ and laboratory analysis of collected samples. Furthermore, they will conduct technology/robotic experiments to simulate drilling missions in space conducted by Astronauts.

    Spaceward Bound is an educational program and will use the lab and mine environment to carry out science and technology in support of the subsurface exploration of the Moon and Mars, and Ocean Worlds. Exploration, hand-on activities and classroom work will be conducted during the day. A typical day will involve a 101 introductory lectures-lab, safety training sessions, and morning/evening group meetings to plan together the next day science objectives and tasks, as well as discuss on what we have learned during the day.

    Rosalba has worked as an Astrobiologist at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute since 2008 and with scientists at NASA Ames Research Center since 2005. She enjoys doing science to advance our understanding of the universe and spends much of her spare time raising public awareness about planetary analog research taking place on Earth, including associated space missions to the Solar System (such as the Mars Science Lab 2020) and those planned to reach potential life in ocean worlds (e.g., Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus). Rosalba’s goal is to gain a broad picture of where life and its signatures are most successfully distributed, concentrated, preserved, and detected. This knowledge helps us to understand how to search for life beyond Earth.

    The SETI Institute is proud to collaborate and support the NASA Spaceward Bound Expedition to Boulby Mine, this October.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 3:40 pm on October 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From SETI Institute: “Gravitational Waves May Solve Some Big Cosmic Riddles” 

    SETI Logo new
    SETI Institute

    October 10, 2017

    SETI astronomer Seth Shostak

    Nobel-winning research could help us see almost all the way back to the Big Bang.

    There was considerable ballyhoo this week as the Royal Swedish Academy announced that the Nobel Prize in physics would go to three Americans who were prime movers in the effort to design and build LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.

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    This followed on the heels of an announcement that LIGO had, for the fourth time, detected the subtle flutter of space-time caused by a gravitational wave.


    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation


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

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

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

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

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

    This event, detected in August, is reckoned to have stemmed from the collision of two black holes, each weighing in at several dozen times the mass of the sun.

    Most people go numb at repeated discoveries — anyone remember Columbus’ fourth expedition? But the circumstances of this detection are different. They foreshadow how sensing these esoteric phenomena might evolve from being an impressive technical triumph to an important way to understand the cosmos.

    So what was different about this fourth event?

    In a nutshell, the telescope got bigger. LIGO, which in 2015 became the first instrument to detect a gravitational wave, consists of two 2.5-mile-long L-shaped structures separated by 1,900 miles — one in Washington State and the other in Louisiana. They are sensitive beyond easy appreciation, able to measure changes in distance to one part in 10 billion billion. That’s akin to determining the separation of New York and San Francisco to a hundred trillionth of an inch.

    But the thing is, the LIGO detectors are not “aimed” at any particular part of the universe. They pick up wiggles in space-time coming from anywhere. So when a gravitational wave is detected, they’re hard pressed to answer the obvious question: What caused that? To do so, we need to determine the source of the wave. What cosmic occurrence suddenly twisted space?

    Fixing the direction of the wave’s origin is about as hard as figuring out where thunder is coming from (with your eyes shut). The difference in the arrival time of sound to your two ears will give you some idea, but it won’t be precise.

    THIRD EAR

    But now LIGO has metaphorically added a third ear, a sibling gravitational wave detector called VIRGO, whose L-shaped vacuum tunnels sprawl across agricultural land eight miles southeast of Pisa, Italy. (This is deliciously appropriate, given Galileo’s reputed use of Pisa’s famous leaning tower to demonstrate the universal acceleration of gravity.)

    So now the arrival time of space-time ripples can be registered at a trio of detectors. It’s a setup that can be likened to systems deployed in crime-prone neighborhoods to locate gunfire by noting the arrival time of the sound waves at each microphone.

    Adding VIRGO to LIGO has helped narrow the region of sky that contains the origin of a gravitational wave by about a factor of 10. A nice improvement for sure, but still not enough to pinpoint the source. However, VIRGO gives a hint of what’s to come. Where this whole story is going.

    And where might that be? Let’s look ahead not just a year, but a few decades. Gravitational wave detectors are big and expensive. LIGO was the largest project ever funded by the National Science Foundation. Its detectors are exquisitely precise and finicky. But what might future technology allow? That’s hard to forecast. But if past is prologue, there will surely be reductions in the cost of detectors able to sense tiny vibrations in space-time.

    A BARRAGE OF NEW INSTRUMENTS

    So think about this: Galileo’s first telescope did, indeed, make some important discoveries. But it was just a prologue to the development of far better instruments that eventually told us what the universe was really like. So, too, might LIGO and VIRGO simply be the opening salvo in what will eventually become a barrage of new instruments.

    The optical telescopes under construction today have 100,000 times the light-collecting power of Galileo’s device. It took four centuries for that to happen, but technology today proceeds rapidly. So what if we could build gravitational telescopes with thousands of times today’s sensitivity and with an ability to pinpoint sources? What would that get us?

    For one, it would get us a solid confirmation of Einstein’s relativity theory, his blueprint for the large-scale structure of everything. The theory predicts that if you wave your hands in the air, you will generate gravity waves that will, at the speed of light, waft into space to eventually distort the separation of objects in the farthest galaxies. (Don’t get a swelled head about this. The distortion isn’t much!)

    But gravitational waves can also tell us about events we cannot see, such as the catastrophic collision of orbiting black holes, the assumed cause of the gravitational waves found so far. This is, again, a window into fundamental physics.

    ALL THE WAY BACK

    Future instruments could clue us in to details of the Big Bang’s early days. With ordinary telescopes, we can see back only to within about 400,000 years of that boisterous birth before running into an opaque wall of bright light. But gravity waves can come to us from beyond the light barrier.

    We could study the formation (and, obviously, the destruction) of black holes, or the details of stars that explode as they grow old.

    All of that is enough to make anyone interested in the structure of the cosmos salivate. But of course, and as always, the most interesting things to be discovered by these new instruments are those that we don’t anticipate. The cosmos has never been short on surprise.

    Gravitational wave astronomy: It’s not where it’s gone; it’s where it’s going.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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  • richardmitnick 7:53 am on October 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From Futurism: “First Contact With Extraterrestrials Might Be a Very Good Thing” 

    futurism-bloc

    Futurism

    March 16, 2017 [Another plum comes to social media.]
    Neil C. Bhavsar

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    Getty Images

    The Debate

    When many people look at the stars, they see a vast, unbound infinity that fills them with a feeling that’s difficult to describe but impossible to forget. That feeling pushes humanity to want to explore the great unknown reaches of space in the hopes of discovering that we aren’t alone in it.

    But let’s assume for one moment that extraterrestrial life does exist. Should we really be trying to contact it?

    Some view the idea of reaching out to extraterrestrials as dangerous. In fact, Stephen Hawking made a strong point against the idea of making contact by comparing it to the Native Americans’ first encounter with Christopher Columbus and the European explorers, a situation that “didn’t turn out so well” for the former civilization. Hawking went on to note that advanced alien life could be “vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”

    While that does sound like it could be a possibility, not everyone agrees with Hawking. In fact, many have equally convincing arguments in support of contact with aliens.

    Nothing to Lose

    To some, the question is a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t we want to meet other intelligent lifeforms? That’s the thought shared by the people at the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute.

    SETI Institute

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

    Laser SETI, the future of SETI Institute research

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

    [Not a part of the SETI Institute.]

    In fact, SETI is now far more proactive in its search for alien life than ever before.

    Initially, the organization focused on passively looking for signals indicating signs of intelligent life, but now it is taking action in the form of METI (Messaging Extra Terrestrial Intelligence).

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

    METI International sends greetings to specific locations in space in the hopes of alerting alien astronomers of our existence.

    Though Hawking and others worry that our interstellar friendship search will lead to the annihilation or subjugation of our species as a whole, Douglas Vakoch, the president of METI International and a professor in the Department of Clinical Psychology at the California Institute for Integral Studies, strongly disagrees with this assertion. He believes that claims that we should hide our existence as a species are unfounded. After all, we have already leaked nearly 100 years of transmissions from radio and television broadcasts as electromagnetic radiation.

    Vakoch goes on to note an inconsistency in Hawking’s reasoning. He asserts that any civilizations able to travel between stars will absolutely have the ability to pick up our “leaked” signals. By that logic, they must already be aware of our existence and are simply waiting for us to make the first move. Vakoch urges us to test the Zoo Hypothesis and the Fermi Paradox through standard peer-review methods, insisting that we target nearby star systems 20 or 30 light-years away with repeat messages to generate a testable hypothesis within a few decades.

    NASA estimates that there are 40 billion habitable planets in our galaxy. While he strongly urges caution in making first contact, even Hawking is curious as to whether any of those planets beyond our solar system host life. To that end, he has launched a $100 million initiative to seek out life.

    Breakthrough Listen Project

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



    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA


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

    If we ever do find extraterrestrial life, either through Hawking’s search, SETI, or any of the number of other projects in the works, we might just want to take a beat before saying “Hello.”

    See the full article here .

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    Futurism covers the breakthrough technologies and scientific discoveries that will shape humanity’s future. Our mission is to empower our readers and drive the development of these transformative technologies towards maximizing human potential.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:13 am on October 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From New Scientist: “We still haven’t heard from aliens – here’s why we might never” 

    NewScientist

    New Scientist

    26 April 2017 [Where did this come from? Just found in social media.]
    Leah Crane

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

    THE most ambitious search so far for extraterrestrial intelligence has released its first data – and there are no aliens yet. The lack of success could be explained by the result of a new approach to calculating the likelihood of detecting alien signals. This calculation suggests we might never make contact, even if extraterrestrial life is common.

    The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) has been active for decades.

    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

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

    Breakthrough Listen aims to be the largest, most comprehensive search ever. [Using only three telescopes? There are a lot more available.]

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



    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA


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

    The $100 million initiative uses three of the world’s most sensitive telescopes to look for alien signals from the 1 million closest stars to Earth and the 100 closest galaxies.

    “It’s like finding a needle in a haystack,” says Seth Shostak at the SETI Institute in California. “But we don’t know how many needles are there.”

    Breakthrough Listen team members have analysed the light from 692 stars so far. They have found 11 potential alien signals, none of which remained promising after further analysis.

    “It’s the beginning of a very exciting time,” says Avi Loeb at Harvard University. “But while it’s exciting, it’s still very risky. We could find nothing.”

    That’s exactly what an assessment by Claudio Grimaldi at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne predicts.

    Most methods for calculating the likelihood of detecting alien signals start with an expected number of sources. Instead, Grimaldi started with what volume of the galaxy could be reached by alien signals, a value that requires fewer assumptions about the nature and abundance of extraterrestrial life.

    Grimaldi assumed that signals from an extraterrestrial emitter might get weaker or be blocked as they travel, so they would only cover a certain volume of space. It’s relatively simple to calculate the probability that Earth is within that space and so able to detect the signal. “Not all signals can be visible at the same time – only those that intersect with the Earth,” says Grimaldi.

    He found that even if half of our galaxy was full of alien noise, the average number of signals that we would be able to detect from Earth is less than one (Scientific Reports, doi.org/b562).

    This implies that, even if there are lots of aliens out there, we might never be able to hear from them. But some researchers take umbrage: Grimaldi’s method still requires you to plug in numbers for how far alien signals could be detectable and how long they last – neither of which is known.

    “You have to make some assumptions about what the aliens are doing in all these calculations, unfortunately, and the data set that we have with alien activity is fairly sparse,” says Shostak. Our only example of intelligent life is on Earth, and there’s little reason to expect that ET resembles us.

    But, says Loeb, extraterrestrial signals should be no harder to find than other astronomical events.

    “The question of whether you can detect a signal has nothing to do with whether it’s artificial or natural, and astronomers routinely detect lots of kinds of signals,” he says.

    “In SETI, theory is great, but observation is the gold standard,” says Douglas Vakoch, president of METI International, which aims to send messages to extraterrestrial intelligence.

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

    It’s not difficult to think up a different signal that we would be able to detect, he says.

    For example, if there were alien life at the TRAPPIST-1 planets, just 40 light years away, they wouldn’t need particularly advanced technology to contact us.

    A size comparison of the planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system, lined up in order of increasing distance from their host star. The planetary surfaces are portrayed with an artist’s impression of their potential surface features, including water, ice, and atmospheres. NASA

    The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultracool dwarf, is orbited by seven Earth-size planets (NASA).

    It seems implausible that we would miss their call.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:06 am on October 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 2017, , , , , SETI Institute, Where in the Worlds has SETI Institute Been? - Sept 25 - October 1   

    From SETI Institute: “Where in the Worlds has SETI Institute Been? – Sept 25 – October 1, 2017” 

    SETI Logo new
    SETI Institute

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    Where to Look for Extraterrestrial Microbial Life

    According to SETI Institute Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak in an interview with Futurism, there are seven places in our solar system that may be promising places to look for extraterrestrial microbial life: Mars, three moons of Jupiter – Europa, Ganymede and Calista, two of Saturn’s moons – Titan and Enceladus, and Pluto.

    Futurism: SETI Scientist: Seven Places in Our Solar System Most Likely to Host Microbial Life

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    Artificial Intelligence

    Artificial intelligence is already transforming the world – from robots to smart speakers to digital assistants to self-driving cars. Everyone has an opinion and some are more optimistic about the future of AI and its impact on humanity than others. SETI Institute Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak offered his thoughts in a recent article in Futurism:

    “The first generation [of AI] is just going to do what you tell them; however, by the third generation, then they will have their own agenda,” Shostak said.

    However, Shostak doesn’t believe sophisticated AI will end up enslaving the human race — instead, he predicts, humans will simply become immaterial to these hyper- intelligent machines. Shostak thinks that these machines will exist on an intellectual plane so far above humans that, at worst, we will be nothing more than a tolerable nuisance.

    Futurism: Artificial Intelligence is Our Future. But Will it Save or Destroy Humanity?

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    Big Picture Science

    Last week, our encore presentation of Aliens – The Evidence talked to Ben Radford, Paul Davies and Jill Tarter about how likely we may, or may not be to encounter extraterrestrial life. This week It’s in the Material examines spacesuit design and innovative materials used to “reboot the suit.”

    Big Picture Science also made the news in Earth Magazine, Big Picture Science Aptly Named. As producer Molly Bentley notes, “We’re willing to be playful and not dry, but are faithful to the science. We’re not trying to be entertainment, although we want to be entertaining.”

    Next Wednesday, October 11 at 2PM PDT we’ll go behind the scenes at Big Picture Science on the SETI Institute’s Facebook Live – https://www.facebook.com/SETIInstitute/.

    Facebook Live

    Last week’s Facebook Live featured artist and illustrator Danielle Futselaar who creates incredible images of places in space. This week we spoke with Eduardo Bendek of the Baer Institute and SETI Institute scientist Franck Marchis about exoplanet detection and imaging.

    All past Facebook Live videos can be seen on the SETI Institute’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SETIInstitute/.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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

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

    Nautilus

    Nautilus

    Oct 04, 2017

    SETI astronomer Seth Shostak


    Seth Shostak

    SETI Institute

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

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

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

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

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

    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Breakthrough Listen Project

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



    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Carl Sagan

    Frank Drake

    Drake Equation, Frank Drake, Seti Institute

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

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

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

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

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


    U Wisconsin ICECUBE neutrino detector at the South Pole

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


    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation


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

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

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

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

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

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

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

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

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

    LaGrange Points map. NASA

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

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

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

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

    Laser SETI

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

    See the full article here .

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

     
  • richardmitnick 10:28 am on August 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , SETI Institute, When Satellites Confuse SETI   

    From METI: “When Satellites Confuse SETI” 

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    METI International

    8.2.17
    Morris Jones

    SETI astronomers sometimes pick up strange signals.

    SETI Institute

    They don’t look like the regular type of radio transmissions we get from stars and other natural things in space. When this happens, they pay attention. These signals could be transmissions from extraterrestrials.

    There are protocols for dealing with a potential extraterrestrial discovery. You perform follow-up observations of the same source, or the same area of space. You ask other observatories to perform their own observations. You also avoid saying too much in public until you know the real source of the signal.

    SETI observations have gone down this path many times, and in all cases, no evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence was found. Sometimes, signals have come from aircraft. But an increasing source of strange signals comes from our own fleet of satellites.

    Recently, the red dwarf star Ross 128 was the subject of one such incident.

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    Image from Aaron Hamilton. http://www.orionsarm.com/eg-article/491700c65734d

    Astronomers from the famous Arecibo radio telescope picked up weird transmissions from the directions of this star, even though they were not actively conducting a SETI search.

    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA

    They alerted other astronomers and even published news of these investigations on a Web page. The media got hold of the story and published it. Much hype was made about the potential discovery, despite the fact that the astronomers had downplayed the likelihood of extraterrestrial involvement. But that doesn’t sound so juicy to journalists hunting for a big story.

    It was quickly shown that extraterrestrials were not beaming messages into space from Ross 128. But something else was certainly transmitting. The most likely cause, it seems, was a satellite orbiting the Earth. It just happened to be passing over the telescope’s field of view when these observations were taken.

    There’s a tremendous amount of artificial radio transmissions on Earth and in space. That’s how we sustain our information society. But the widespread use of radio waves causes problems for radio astronomers, SETI or otherwise. In the future, astronomers may need to go deeper into space, perhaps to the far side of the Moon, to escape the radio noise of Earth.

    That’s a luxury SETI astronomers can’t afford right now. All they can do is check any strange signals carefully, and accept that there will probably be more interference from satellites in the future.

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

    This also means that discipline needs to be practiced in reaching wild conclusions too quickly. Look before you leap. Check before you talk. In 2016, there was a torrent of publicity over a strange signal received by the RATAN-600 radio telescope, which was suspected of being an extraterrestrial transmission.

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    RATAN-600 (short for Radio Astronomical Telescope of the Academy of Sciences) is a radio telescope located near the village of Zelenchukskaya in the Caucasus Mountains, in Russia, at an altitude of 970 meters.

    Follow-up observations dispelled any chance of this, and it seems that once again, astronomers were tricked by a satellite. In this case, there was clearly too much talk before the signal had been properly investigated.

    These two incidents serve as lessons for SETI practitioners, the media and the public. Any strange signal detected by a SETI project is probably not from extraterrestrials. The most likely cause will probably be a satellite launched by humans from Earth. We all need to avoid leaping to wild conclusions without firm evidence. Getting that evidence takes time, and patience will be needed.

    We would all love to find evidence that humanity is not alone in the universe. It’s one of the most significant questions confronting science. But science shouldn’t run on emotions. It needs caution and deduction. SETI is mostly a well-run pursuit. But journalists and the public should still be cautious of any claims they encounter.

    See the full article here .

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    The primary objectives and purposes of METI International are to:

    Conduct scientific research and educational programs in Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

    Promote international cooperation and collaboration in METI, SETI, and astrobiology.

    Understand and communicate the societal implications and relevance of searching for life beyond Earth, even before detection of extraterrestrial life.

    Foster multidisciplinary research on the design and transmission of interstellar messages, building a global community of scholars from the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts.

    Research and communicate to the public the many factors that influence the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe, with a special emphasis on the last three terms of the Drake Equation: (1) the fraction of life-bearing worlds on which intelligence evolves, (2) the fraction of intelligence-bearing worlds with civilizations having the capacity and motivation for interstellar communication, and (3) the longevity of such civilizations.

    Offer programs to the public and to the scholarly community that foster increased awareness of the challenges facing our civilization’s longevity, while encouraging individual and community activities that support the sustainability of human culture on multigenerational timescales, which is essential for long-term METI and SETI research.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:32 am on July 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI Institute   

    From SETI: “The Biography of SETI Pioneer Jill Tarter, Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is Released” 

    SETI Logo new
    SETI Institute

    July 05 2017

    Rebecca McDonald
    Director of Communications
    Rmcdonald@seti.org
    650-960-4526

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    Jill Tarter is the subject of a new book by Sarah Scoles, Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, which was released yesterday. Jill is a pioneer in SETI research and currently holds the Bernard M. Oliver Chair at the SETI Institute. Making Contact is not just for scientists and SETI enthusiasts, but truly is the story of Jill’s life and her life’s work.

    “This is one woman’s view of the roller coaster history of SETI explorations,” said Jill. “Sarah has told it with a fresh voice that makes me grin.”

    In Making Contact, Scoles examines the science behind the work that tries to answer the question, “Are we alone?” Jill was the inspiration for the character of Ellie Arroway in Carl Sagan’s Contact, a role played by Jodie Foster in the film, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this month. Scoles tells Jill’s story, and also begins to wonder how a new generation of SETI research will look.

    “A fictional story about SETI, partly inspired by Tarter, has spurred so many people’s interests in astronomy and life in the universe,” said Scoles. “I hope the nonfictional tale of the actual search and the actual Tarter can do something similar.”

    Scoles suggests that without Jill, SETI programs, including the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array (ATA) and Breakthrough Listen might not exist.

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

    Breakthrough Listen Project

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



    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA


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

    Additionally, funding for SETI research has always been a challenge to obtain. Indeed, the SETI Institute’s own SETI program is funded entirely through private donations and receives no government support. Jill’s ongoing efforts continue to make groundbreaking SETI research possible.

    “Jill is not only a SETI pioneer, and world-class astronomer, her life and work have served as inspiration for an entire new generation of women in science, including many here at the SETI Institute” said Institute CEO, Bill Diamond. “Her toughness, tenacity and perseverance in a male-dominated field of enquiry are fully explored in this captivating biography of a scientist possessed by what is perhaps humankind’s greatest quest – answering that singular question – Are we alone?”

    Jill and Sarah will appear together on July 12 at the Cubberley Community Center in Mountain View, CA to discuss the book and new directions in SETI research. The presentation is part of the SETI Institute’s SETI Talks series and will also feature SETI Institute scientists Eliot Gillum and Seth Shostak. Tickets are available here.

    See the full article here .
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    SETI Institute – 189 Bernardo Ave., Suite 100
    Mountain View, CA 94043
    Phone 650.961.6633 – Fax 650-961-7099
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  • richardmitnick 7:58 am on July 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, NIROSETI-Near-Infrared Optical SETI instrument, Optical SETI, Radio SETI, SETI Institute, Shelley Wright,   

    From Centauri Dreams: “Making Optical SETI Happen” 

    Centauri Dreams

    July 18, 2017
    Paul Gilster

    Yesterday I made mention of the Schwartz and Townes paper “Interstellar and Interplanetary Communication by Optical Masers,” which ran in Nature in 1961 (Vol. 190, Issue 4772, pp. 205-208). Whereas the famous Cocconi and Morrison paper that kicked off radio SETI quickly spawned an active search in the form of Project Ozma, optical SETI was much slower to develop. The first search I can find is a Russian project called MANIA, in the hands of V. F. Shvartsman and G. M. Beskin, who searched about 100 objects in the early 1970s, finding no significant brightness variations within the parameters of their search.

    If you want to track this one down, you’ll need a good academic library, as it appears in the conference proceedings for the Third Decennial US-USSR Conference on SETI, published in 1993. Another Shvartsman investigation under the MANIA rubric occurred in 1978. Optical SETI did not seem to seize the public’s imagination, perhaps partially because of the novelty of communications through the recently discovered laser. We do see several optical SETI studies at UC-Berkeley’s Leuschner Observatory and Kitt Peak from 1979 to 1981, the work of Francisco Valdes and Robert Freitas, though these were searches for Bracewell probes within the Solar System rather than attempts to pick up laser transmissions from other star systems.

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    Harvard’s Paul Horowitz, a key player in the development of optical SETI. Credit: Harvard University.

    This was an era when radio searches for extraterrestrial technology had begun to proliferate, but despite the advocacy of Townes and others (and three conferences Townes helped create), it wasn’t until the 1990s that optical SETI began to come into its own. Charles Townes himself was involved in a search for laser signals from about 300 nearby stars in the ‘90s, using the 1.7-meter telescope on Mt. Wilson and reported on at the 1993 conference. Stuart Kingsley began an optical SETI search using the 25-centimeter telescope at the Columbus Optical SETI Observatory (COSETI) in 1990, while Gregory Beskin searched for optical signals at the Special Astrophysical Observatory run by the Russian Academy of Sciences in the Caucasus in 1995.

    Optical SETI’s advantages were beginning to be realized, as Andrew Howard (Caltech) commented in a 2004 paper:

    “The rapid development of laser technology since that time—a Moore’s law doubling of capability roughly every year—along with the discovery of many microwave lines of astronomical interest, have lessened somewhat the allure of hydrogen-line SETI. Indeed, on Earth the exploitation of photonics has revolutionized communications technology, with high-capacity fibers replacing both the historical copper cables and the long-haul microwave repeater chains. In addition, the elucidation (Cordes & Lazio 1991) of the consequences to SETI of interstellar dispersion (first seen in pulsar observations) has broadened thinking about optimum wavelengths. Even operating under the prevailing criterion of minimum energy per bit transmitted, one is driven upward to millimetric wavelengths.”

    In the late 90’s, the SETI Institute, as part of a reevaluation of SETI methods, recommended and then co-funded several optical searches including one by Dan Werthimer and colleagues at UC Berkeley and another by a Harvard-Smithsonian team including Paul Horowitz and Andrew Howard. The Harvard-Smithsonian group also worked in conjunction with Princeton University on a detector system similar to the one mounted on Harvard’s 155-centimeter optical telescope. A newer All-Sky Optical SETI (OSETI) telescope, set up at the Oak Ridge Observatory at Harvard and funded by The Planetary Society, dates from 2006.

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    http://seti.harvard.edu/oseti/allsky/allsky.htm

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    http://www.setileague.org/photos/oseti3.htm

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    http://seti.harvard.edu/oseti/

    At Berkeley, the optical SETI effort is led by Werthimer, who had built the laser detector for the Harvard-Smithsonian team. Optical SETI efforts from Leuschner Observatory and Lick Observatory were underway by 1999. Collaborating with Shelley Wright (UC Santa Cruz), Remington Stone (UC Santa Cruz/Lick Observatory), and Frank Drake (SETI Institute), the Berkeley group has gone on to develop new detector systems to improve sensitivity. As I mentioned yesterday, UC-Berkeley’s Nate Tellis, working with Geoff Marcy, has analyzed Keck archival data for 5,600 stars between 2004 and 2016 in search of optical signals.

    Working in the infrared, the Near-Infrared Optical SETI instrument (NIROSETI) is designed to conduct searches at infrared wavelengths. Shelley Wright is the principal investigator for NIROSETI, which is mounted on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, seeing first light in March of 2015. The project is designed to search for nanosecond pulses in the near-infrared, with a goal “to search not only for transient phenomena from technological activity, but also from natural objects that might produce very short time scale pulses from transient sources.” The advantage of near-infrared is the decrease in interstellar extinction, the absorption by dust and gas that can sharply impact the strength of a signal.

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    Shelley Wright, then a student at UC-Santa Cruz, helped build a detector that divides the light beam from a telescope into three parts, rather than just two, and sends it to three photomultiplier tubes. This arrangement greatly reduces the number of false alarms; very rarely will instrumental noise trigger all three detectors at once. The three-tube detector is in the white box attached here to the back of the 1-meter Nickel Telescope at Lick Observatory. Credit: Seth Shostak.

    8
    UCSC Lick Observatory Nickel Telescope

    I might also mention METI International’s Optical SETI Observatory at Boquete, Panama. The idea is to put the optical SETI effort in context. With the SETI Institute now raising money for its Laser SETI initiative — all-sky all-the-time — the role of private funding in making optical SETI happen is abundantly clear. And now, of course, we also have Breakthrough Listen, which in addition to listening at radio wavelengths at the Parkes instrument in Australia and the Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia, is using the Automated Planet Finder at Lick Observatory to search for optical laser transmissions.

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



    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA

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

    Funded by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, the project continues the tradition of private funding from individuals, institutions (the SETI Institute) and organizations like The Planetary Society to get optical SETI done.

    Centauri Dreams


    See the full article here .

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    Tracking Research into Deep Space Exploration

    Alpha Centauri and other nearby stars seem impossible destinations not just for manned missions but even for robotic probes like Cassini or Galileo. Nonetheless, serious work on propulsion, communications, long-life electronics and spacecraft autonomy continues at NASA, ESA and many other venues, some in academia, some in private industry. The goal of reaching the stars is a distant one and the work remains low-key, but fascinating ideas continue to emerge. This site will track current research. I’ll also throw in the occasional musing about the literary and cultural implications of interstellar flight. Ultimately, the challenge may be as much philosophical as technological: to reassert the value of the long haul in a time of jittery short-term thinking.

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

    From SETI Institute: Laser SETI 

    SETI Logo new
    SETI Institute

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

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

    Laser SETI is the first experiment to circumvent this assumption.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Project Status and Need

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

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

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

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

    Technology: How It Works

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

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

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    (Talk starts at 6:47)

    Risks & Challenges

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

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

    Other Ways You Can Help

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

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

    See the full article here .
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    SETI Institute – 189 Bernardo Ave., Suite 100
    Mountain View, CA 94043
    Phone 650.961.6633 – Fax 650-961-7099
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