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  • 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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    Stem Education Coalition

    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, UCSC Lick Observatory   

    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.

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    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: , , , , Laser SETI, 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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  • richardmitnick 6:33 am on July 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , SETI Institute   

    From WIRED: “Jill Tarter Never Found Aliens—But Her Successors Might” 

    Wired logo

    Wired

    07.05.17
    Sarah Scoles

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    Getty Images

    In December 2016, three generations of women astronomers joined me for a phone call. Debra Fischer, Natalie Batalha, and Margaret Turnbull have dedicated their careers to comprehending planets beyond the solar system, the signs of microbial life that might be on those planets, or both of those out-there topics. We talked some about their astronomy, but we mostly talk about another astronom_er_: Jill Tarter—the long-time leader of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and the inspiration for the movie and book Contact’s main character, Ellie Arroway.

    SETI Jill Tarter

    SETI Institute

    When Turnbull first watched Contact, as an intern at Harvard University, she was ready to scoff. Contact follows Arroway as she searches for a radio signal from an intelligent extraterrestrial civilization, battling bureaucracy, politicians, economic woes, statistical unlikelihood, institutionalized sexism, and her own emotional demons. As a nonfictional woman scientist and a SETI scientist, Tarter faced the same challenges. But this is where the two women’s stories depart: Arroway finds a signal. E.T. calls. E.T. sends instructions for building a spaceship. Humanity builds the spaceship (not without trials), and (not without trials) Arroway becomes the sole passenger.

    “I was pretty sure, going into the movie, that I was going to know everything they were doing wrong because I was the smartest I’d ever been when I was a junior in college,” she says, laughing. “But by the end, I forgot all about that attitude and was basically standing on my chair in the theater saying, ‘That’s what I’m supposed to do!’”

    Not long after that, in graduate school, Turnbull talked with Tarter in person. “How can somebody do their PhD with you?” she asked.

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    Courtesy of Pegasus Books

    Tarter told her that she and her colleagues were terrible graduate advisors, and she didn’t recommend it. But the next summer, Turnbull went to the SETI Institute anyway and worked (ill-advisedly, with Tarter) to create a catalog of star systems that could be habitable for life, aptly called the HabCat. Turnbull doesn’t do SETI now, but she sees her own work—in exoplanets and astrobiology, the study of how life comes to be and change and stay, here and potentially elsewhere —as the best way to get close to those investigations that so inspired her in Contact.

    The three women then ask each other how many times they have each seen Contact, a question that is first met with ooohs and aaahs, and followed by admissions that they watch it at least once a year. No fictional science movie—not The Martian, or Interstellar, or Arrival—has affected them as much as Arroway’s adventures and misadventures did.

    But they do understand and, in some ways, sympathize with the idea that what they do is mainstream, while what inspired them about Contact is fringe. “Within the scientific community, there is healthy skepticism,” says Fischer. “And the question is ‘How do you ever get to a meaningful null result?’” Meaning, “How long and how hard do SETI scientists have to look for extraterrestrial intelligence and find nothing before they say, ‘There is nothing. We are alone.’”

    And there’s not a good answer, because the thing about the universe is there’s always more of it to search. There are always new ways that aliens might communicate. And you could try different combinations of places and ways of looking forever and never concede. The inability to get a null result makes a study, in the eyes of some and in some philosophies of science, unscientific. That’s part of why Tarter and other SETI colleagues have tried to set limits—like looking at a million stars within 1,000 light-years—from which they can draw incremental and statistical conclusions.

    Batalha, though, expresses solidarity with the non-conclusion of the conclusion of Tarter’s career—that non-conclusion being that she hasn’t found intelligent aliens but can’t say they’re not out there. SETI, astrobiology, and exoplanet science all require generations of work. The whole of science does, really. Big discoveries are rare, coming decades or centuries after people start wondering and doing the work that scaffolds them, shores them up, sets them up to succeed. But without that initial wondering, and those first small steps, no one would make giant leaps at all. “Jill has had this really luminous career doing SETI,” says Batalha. “But at the end of the day, she retired and hadn’t found anything. And I’m guessing that might be my fate as well, in terms of finding [microbial] life. I might live to see that day, or I might not.”

    To be an astronomer at all is to be zen about that: about cosmic time and about how you are a cog in the big machine of science, whose gears began turning long before you and will continue to turn long after you. Sometimes those gears grind to a result because of your cog, and sometimes your cog is just there to keep the gears going.

    All astronomers have days when they’re good at being zen, and days when they feel hopeless about and powerless before the uncaring bigness and seeming incomprehensibility of the universe. Tarter has had more of the latter recently.

    Batalha recalls a meeting for the Kepler space telescope—which has discovered thousands of planets outside the solar system—as the project’s prime data collection was ending, in 2012. She was sitting next to Tarter, who, at a certain point, looked down at the table and near-whispered, to no one but herself, “We didn’t find anything.”

    Batalha turned her head to look at Tarter, struck by the depth of emotion. “That feeling—it was just so tangible,” she says. “She announced her retirement two weeks later. Clearly, she knew that she was on the verge of retiring. She was expressing that feeling of all those years of work not realizing that goal.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 6:45 am on July 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , SETI Institute, Where in the Worlds has SETI Institute Been? June 19 - 25 2017   

    From SETI Institute: “Where in the Worlds has SETI Institute Been? June 19 – 25, 2017 

    SETI Logo new
    SETI Institute

    June 30, 2017
    No writer credit

    [AT THE OUTSET, IT IS IMPORTANT FOR ME TO SAY IF THERE IS SUPPOSED TO BE A WEEKLY ACCOUNTING OF SET INSTITUTE ADVENTURES, IT IS WELL HIDDEN, I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS BEFORE TODAY.]

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    Kepler
    The Kepler survey mission catalog was released by NASA on June 19. SETI Institute scientist Susan Thompson is the lead author of the catalog study.

    The Kepler space observatory, sometimes dubbed a “planet-hunting telescope,” launched in 2009 and observed 200,000 stars searching for changes in brightness that occur when a planet passes between the star and Earth. This is called a transit. Kepler’s observations identified 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are about the same size as Earth and within their star’s habitable zone. A habitable zone is one where it’s possible that liquid water, and therefore possibly life, could exist.

    This is the eighth and final data release from the original four-year Kepler mission. The total number of planet candidates is now 4,034. 2,335 have been confirmed as being planets and 50 are approximately the same size as earth and within their star’s habitable zone. The big takeaway? Earth-like planets are not rare.

    SETI.org: Kepler’s Final Survey Catalog
    NASA.gov: NASA Releases Kepler Survey Catalog with Hundreds of New Planet Candidates
    Facebook.com/SETIInstitute: Talking About Kepler Planet Candidates with Susan Thompson
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory: NASA Releases Kepler Survey Catalog with Hundreds of New Planet Candidates
    New York Times: Earth-Size Planets Among Final Tally of NASA’s Kepler Telescope
    The Washington Post: NASA Finds 10 New Potentially Habitable, ‘Earth-like’ Worlds
    Science Friday: Kepler Unveils a New Crop of Exoplanets
    The Nation: NASA Discovers 10 New Earth-Size Exoplanets
    National Geographic: NASA Finds 219 Possible Planets, Including 10 ‘Earths’
    Smithsonian: Kepler Finds 219 New Planets
    Huffpost: NASA has Found Hundreds of Potential New Planets
    USA Today: 10 New Planets that Could Have Life
    Christian Science Monitor: Kepler Telescope Discovers New Batch of ‘Just Right’ Planets that Could Foster Life
    The Mercury News: Kepler’s Final Survey Reveals 50 “Goldilocks” Planets
    CNN: NASA’s Kepler Mission Finds 10 Earth-Size Exoplanets, 209 Others
    Fox 32: 10 More Planets that Could Support Life Found by NASA
    Independent: NASA Discovers 10 New ‘Rocky’ Planets Like Earth
    Spaceflight Insider: Kepler Discovers 10 Earth-Like Exoplanets from 219 Planet Candidates
    The Space Reporter: Kepler Finds 219 New Exoplanet Candidates
    Space Daily: NASA Releases Kepler Survey Catalog with 100s of New Exoplanet Candidates
    Sci News: Kepler Team Releases New Catalog of Exoplanet Candidates

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    No image caption or credit

    Starmus Festival
    The Starmus Festival, which is a celebration of science and the arts intended to bring understanding and appreciation of science to the public, was held June 18-23 in Tronheim, Norway. Jill Tarter, SETI Institute Bernard M. Oliver Chair and pioneer in SETI work, was one of the speakers, along with the likes of Stephen Hawking, Jeffrey Sachs, Neil deGrasse Tyson and more.

    Jill created a bit of a stir when, as an audience member during a panel discussion, she called out economist Chris Pissardes on some sexist comments he made, saying, “Why a very wise, knighted, nobel laureate found two opportunities on the sage of this conference to piss off half the world’s population.” She also questioned why her fellow astrophysicist who was on the stage at the time, Neil deGrasse Tyson didn’t “jump on him.”

    Other attendees who were offended by Pissardes comments left the conference as a result. Starmus later issued a statement expressing regret over the comments and affirming the importance of women in science.

    Twitter: Video of comments from the stage and question from the audience
    BBC News: Siri Storm Caused by Economist’s Comments
    Motherboard: Sexist Comments Spark Outrage at Major Astronomy Festival
    World News Easy Branches: Neil DeGrasse Tyson Assailed for Not Scolding Nobel Laureate Over Sexist Siri Remark
    International Business Times: Sexism Row Erupts at Starmus Festival as Nobel-Winner Says Male Siri is More Trustworthy than Female

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    The Great American Eclipse

    The first total solar eclipse to occur in 26 years will take place on August 21. Across one 70-mile-wide swath of the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina, the eclipse will be total. In other parts of the United States, the eclipse will be at least partially visible. SETI Institute Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak explains where and how to safely observe the eclipse.

    SETI.org: Get Ready for the Total Eclipse of the Sun
    KQED: You Know About This Summer’s Spectacular Solar Eclipse, Right?

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    NASA Frontier Development Lab (FDL)

    NASA Frontier Development Lab (FDL), hosted at the SETI Institute, kicked off its 2017 program.

    Global technology specialist First Derivatives plc (FD) with its Kx technology will provide the analytics capability in partnership with Lockheed Martin and IBM on one of FDL’s research teams.

    FDL is an applied artificial intelligence research accelerator and public/private partnership between NASA Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute. The program tackles knowledge gaps in space science by pairing machine learning experts with astronomy and planetary science expertise. Interdisciplinary teams address tightly defined problems with meaningful application to the space program.

    SETI.org: Welcome NASA Frontier Development Lab
    BusinessWire: Kx Technology and the SETI Institute Team Up with NASA Frontier Development Lab to Apply AI to Solve Space Related Challenges

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    The Search for Life Beyond Earth

    SETI Institute Senior Astronomer Seth Shotstak spoke at FutureCon, a festival that highlights the intersection between science, technology and science fiction. His comments highlighted the various ways of looking for life beyond Earth including: listen for it, go find it or build a bigger telescope such as the James Webb Space Telescope which is scheduled to launch in October 2018.

    Live Science: Is it Time to Rethink How We Search for Alien Life?

    Quotables

    Seth Shostak, SETI Institute Senior Astronomer and host of the radio show Big Picture Science commented on the speculation that ensues when people attempt to interpret photos from NASA’s Curiosity Rover on Mars.

    “The fact that so many people are adept at playing ‘Where’s Waldo?’ with rover photos is a testament to our brain’s ability to pick out creatures in the visual landscape,” Seth told The Huffington Post. “It’s a talent that helped our ancestors avoid predators or catch prey, but it’s a poor strategy in the hunt for extraterrestrial life.”

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    Big Picture Science

    Last week, Perpetual Motion Machine wondered if it’s possible build computers that can empathize with humans. This week, a Skeptic Check encore episode, How Low Can You Go? Investigates cryotherapy.

    Events

    SETI Talks: July 12, Palo Alto, CA SETI Talks return featuring Jill Tarter, Sarah Scoles, Eliot Gillum and more.

    Virtual Reality in Space: The Next Big Thing: July 12, San Francisco, CA Franck Marchis will participate in a discussion about ways in which virtual reality might play a role in space exploration.

    Starship Congress 2017, August 7-9, Monterey, CA. A conference that explores pathways to allow human exploration of the galaxy. Franck Marchis will give a presentation.

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    The Carl Sagan Center Activity Report for May 2017 is out and can be downloaded here The SETI Institute scientists have had a busy spring and here are some highlights:

    19 papers accepted or published in peer-reviewed journals such as The Astronomical Journal, Icarus and The Astrophysical Journal
    SETI Institute scientists participated in conferences and events including the International Planetary Dunes Workshop, the Conference on Environmental Systems, the Planetary Defense Conference and the American Astronomical Society’s Division on Dynamical Astronomy Meeting
    SETI Institute experts wrote for or were interviewed by popular media including The Verge, Newsweek, Time and NBC News
    Public speaking events included presentations to students at several middle and high schools, appearances at Caltech and Stanford University and a talk at Denver Comic Con
    Facebook Live events in May visited Janice Bishops minerology lab, joined Franck Marchis and Michael Busch at the Planetary Defense Conference in Tokyo and also went to Namibia with Bill Diamond. All our Facebook Live event videos can be viewed on the SETI Institute Facebook page.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:46 pm on June 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars), , Janice Bishop, Janice Bishop Explores Mawrth Vallis and Salt Ponds in Australia, , Mawrth Vallis, SETI Institute,   

    From SETI Institute: “Janice Bishop Explores Mawrth Vallis and Salt Ponds in Australia” 

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    SETI Institute

    June 06, 2017
    Janice Bishop

    Mawrth Vallis (Mawrth means Mars in Welsh) is a valley on the planet Mars, with a deep channel formed by water in Mars’ ancient past. In 2016, SETI Institute chemist and planetary scientist Janice Bishop made an interesting discovery about the composition of rock layers that form the valley using data collected by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).

    CRISM is an instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) which was launched in 2005 and remains in orbit around Mars searching for evidence of past water.

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    CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars) searches for the residue of minerals that form in the presence of water, perhaps in association with ancient hot springs, thermal vents, lakes, or ponds that may have existed on the surface of Mars.

    Even though some landforms provide evidence that liquid water may have flowed on the surface of Mars long ago, evidence of mineral deposits created by long-term interaction between water and rock has been limited.

    CRISM’s visible and infrared spectrometers track regions on the dusty martian surface and map them at scales as small as 18 meters (60 feet) across, from an altitude of 300 kilometers (186 miles). CRISM reads the hundreds of “colors” in reflected sunlight to detect patterns that indicate certain minerals on the surface, including signature traces of past water.
    The principal investigator (lead scientist) for CRISM is Scott Murchie from the Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins University.

    From an altitude of 186 miles above the surface of Mars, CRISM collects visible and infrared signatures of certain minerals, including those that hold traces of past water. Using this orbital spectral data from CRISM, Janice identified a unique material sandwiched between two clay-bearing strata. This new phase appears to be mixtures of sulfates and acid-altered clays. One of the puzzling parts of this investigation is that two kinds of sulfates have been identified here: an acidic Fe-sulfate called jarosite and a neutral Ca-sulfate called gypsum. These two sulfates are not normally found together because of their different pH requirements.

    CRISM is an instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) which was launched in 2005 and remains in orbit around Mars searching for evidence of past water. From an altitude of 186 miles above the surface of Mars, CRISM collects visible and infrared signatures of certain minerals, including those that hold traces of past water. Using this orbital spectral data from CRISM, Janice identified a unique material sandwiched between two clay-bearing strata. This new phase appears to be mixtures of sulfates and acid-altered clays. One of the puzzling parts of this investigation is that two kinds of sulfates have been identified here: an acidic Fe-sulfate called jarosite and a neutral Ca-sulfate called gypsum. These two sulfates are not normally found together because of their different pH requirements.

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    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter credit: NASA

    Here on Earth, other scientists have found combinations of jarosite, gypsum, as well as halite and clays in the highly saline ponds found in the desert of Western Australia. Apparently, the high salt (S, Cl) level enables formation of these sulfates in this kind of environment. Janice and SETI Institute colleague Lukas Gruendler recently visited these salt ponds in the Archean Yilgarn Craton region of Western Australia looking for mixtures of clays and sulfates similar to those Janice discovered in some of the clay-rich regions of Mars.

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    Janice and Lukas hold up the expedition flag.

    Janice and Lukas decided to study samples from three of these sites in order to characterize the mineralogy of the surface crust and the material down a few centimeters in the hopes of learning about environments that could help us understand this puzzling salty outcrop on Mars.

    Sample analysis will continue in Janice’s mineral lab here at the SETI Institute and will help learn more about both Earth and Mars.

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    Janice collecting samples at a salt pond
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    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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  • richardmitnick 4:01 pm on May 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , SETI Institute   

    From SETI Institute: “Another smoking gun in the search for life in Enceladus’ ocean” 

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    SETI Institute

    April 13, 2017 [Nothing like being prompt on your own web site.]
    Franck Marchis

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    This illustration shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft

    Today, NASA-funded scientists announced a major new step in the search for life on Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth-largest moon, thanks to new data collected by the NASA/ESA Cassini mission.

    Enceladus has attracted a lot of interest because it has an active pole that spews jets of material into outer space. During its last flyby over that pole, an instrument on board the Cassini spacecraft detected the presence of a biomarker—molecular hydrogen. This suggests that the ocean we know lies beneath the moon’s surface could indeed contain an ecosystem similar to the ones we find in deep-sea hydrothermal vents on Earth.

    Hunter Waite, a researcher at the Southwestern Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, is the lead author of a paper describing the findings in an upcoming issue of Science. In the piece, the team explains that the molecular hydrogen (H2) content was measured using Cassini’s INMS instrument, a mass spectrometer capable of sniffing the molecular composition of gas that it captures.

    During its last flyby of Enceladus on October 28, 2015, the spacecraft grazed the moon’s southern pole at 8.5 kilometers per second, just 49 kilometers above the surface. It crossed the active region where jets spew material from the ocean that we know is located below the icy surface. On three previous flybys, scientists had managed to measure the composition of the jets’ material, and detected molecules of water, carbon dioxide, methane, and ammonia. During the October 2015 flyby, they used the instrument in a mode they hoped would allow them to measure the content of hydrogen molecules in the gas of the vents.

    They succeeded — Cassini detected molecular hydrogen.

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    During Cassini’s deepest dive through the Enceladus plume, NASA-funded scientists discovered hydrogen gas in the material erupting from the Saturnian moon. Is there life down there? (Image Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    This is important because the gas is used by microorganisms, known as methanogens, to produce methane from carbon dioxide. Thriving ecosystems seen in the deep oceans of our planet near the volcanic hydrothermal vents of the mid-Atlantic ridge, for instance, depend on the production of energy using this chemistry.

    The scientists are very careful when discussing the origin of this molecular hydrogen. They show that the high concentrations measured are not compatible with a geological origin—in other words, such a large amount of molecular hydrogen couldn’t have been stored in the ice shell or in the ocean. Similarly, the scientists are confident that strong radiation on the surface of Enceladus can’t be the source of this molecular hydrogen. They conclude its source is probably hydrothermal reactions between water and rock, emerging out of active volcanism, as it happens in submarine hydrothermal systems on Earth. The source of this volcanism on Enceladus is still not fully understood, but it is probably related to tidal dissipation in the moon’s core, which is squeezed and warmed as the satellite orbits the gas giant Saturn. As with Europa, a moon of Jupiter, this heat warms up the interior, creating an ocean with hydrothermal activity and surface fractures from which materials can escape in space.

    It must be emphasized that the scientists did NOT report the detection of life in Enceladus’ ocean, but rather the detection of molecular hydrogen—the final piece needed to infer the presence of methanogenesis. A model including the characteristics of the ocean (temperature, pH, mixing ratio and composition) supports the idea that methanogenic life could survive in this environment. But thermodynamic models alone are not enough to claim that life is indeed present on Enceladus. In other words, “habitable” does not mean “inhabited,” and this distinction is important for astrobiologists.

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    Deep-sea hydrothermal vents in the bottom of the mid-Atlantic ridge when methanogenic-based ecosystems thrive. Similar conditions may exist in the bottom of the ocean of Enceladus. (NOAA Photo Library).

    A targeted flyby of Enceladus occurred shortly after this one, on December 19, 2015. The team is probably analyzing more data, but it is not clear that the spacecraft’s INMS instrument was used again to collect observations. With the end of the Cassini mission scheduled for this September, the next step in the study of Enceladus and the understanding its habitability would probably be the design of a mission dedicated to the study of the satellite and the analysis of its jets.

    A mission concept called JET was proposed in the last NASA Discovery round of proposals but was not selected. This latest discovery may reactivate interest in sending a spacecraft dedicated to the study of this small (272-kilometer-radius) moon of Saturn. Enceladus and its warm hydrothermal vents could be the place where we one day find life. Microbiological life, most likely, but life—and I for one would be extremely happy with that.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:32 am on May 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Colossus project, , , , SETI Institute   

    From Centauri Dreams via METI International: “A ‘Census’ for Civilizations” 

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    METI International

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    Centauri Dreams

    May 17, 2017
    Paul Gilster

    We’ve been talking about the Colossus project, and the possibility that this huge (though remarkably lightweight) instrument could detect the waste heat of extraterrestrial civilizations.

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    But what are the chances of this, if we work out the numbers based on the calculations the Colossus team is working with? After all, Frank Drake put together his famous equation as a way of making back-of-the-envelope estimates of SETI’s chances for success, working the numbers even though most of them at that time had to be no more than guesses.

    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

    Bear in mind as we talk about this that we’d like to arrive at a figure for the survival of a civilization, a useful calculation because we have no idea whether technology-driven cultures survive or destroy themselves. Civilizations may live forever, or they may die out relatively quickly, perhaps on a scale of thousands of years. Here Colossus can give us useful information.

    The intention, as discussed in a paper by Jeff Kuhn and Svetlana Berdyugina that we looked at yesterday (citation below), is to look out about 60 light years, a sphere within which we have numerous bright stars that a large instrument like Colossus can investigate for such detections. We’re making the assumption, by looking for waste heat, that civilizations living around such stars could be detected whether or not they intend to communicate.

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    Image: Figure 1 from Kuhn & Berdyugina, “Global Warming as a Detectable Thermodynamic Marker of Earth-like Extrasolar Civilizations: The case for a Telescope like Colossus.” Caption: Man-made visible light on the Earth in 2011. From DMPS/NASA. The brightest pixels in this 0.5 × 0.5 degree resolution map have a radiance of about 0.05 × 10−6 W/cm2/sr/micron. Credit: Jeff Kuhn/Svetlana Berdyugina.

    Let’s take the fraction of stars with planets as 0.5, and the fraction of those with planets in the habitable zone as 0.5, numbers that have the benefit of Kepler data as some justification, unlike Drake’s pre-exoplanet era calculations. Kuhn and Berdyugina have to make some Drake-like guesses as they run their own exercise, so let’s get really imaginative: Let’s put the fraction of those planets that develop civilizations at the same 0.5, and the fraction of those that are more advanced than our own likewise at 0.5. These numbers operate under the assumption that our own civilization is not inherently special but just one of many.

    Work all this out and we can come up with a figure for the fraction of civilizations that might be out there. But how many of them have survived their technological infancy?

    Let me cut straight to the paper on the outcome of the kind of survey contemplated for Colossus, which is designed to include “a quantifiably complete neighborhood cosmic survey for [Kardashev] Type I civilizations” within about 20 light years of the Sun, but one that extends out to 60 light years. In the section below, Ω stands for the ratio of power production by an extraterrestrial civilization to the amount of stellar power it receives (more on this in a moment).

    From the paper:

    “…current planet statistics suggest that out of 650 stars within 20 pc at least one quarter would have HZEs [Habitable Zone Earths]. Assuming that one quarter of those will develop Ω ≥ 0.01 civilizations, we arrive at the number of detectable civilizations in the Solar neighbourhood ND = 40fs, where fs is the fraction of survived civilizations (i.e., civilizations that form and survive). Hence, even if only one in 20 advanced civilizations survive (including us at the time of survey), we should get a detection. Taking into account the thermodynamic nature of our biomarker, this detection is largely independent of the sociology of detectable ETCs.”

    Independent because we are not relying on any intent to communicate with us, and are looking for civilizations that may in fact be advanced not far beyond our own level, as well as their more advanced counterparts, should they exist.

    Suppose we detect not a single extraterrestrial civilization. Within the parameters of the original assumptions, we could conclude that if a civilization does reach a certain level of technology, its probability of survival is low. That would be a null result of some consequence, because it would place the survival of our own civilization in context. We would, in other words, face old questions anew: What can we do to prevent catastrophe as a result of technology? We might also consider that our assumptions may have been too optimistic — perhaps the fraction of habitable zone planets developing civilizations is well below 0.5.

    But back to that interesting figure Ω. The discussion depends upon the idea that the marker of civilization using energy is infrared heat radiation. Take Earth’s current global power production to be some 15 terawatts. It turns out that this figure is some 0.04 percent of the total solar power Earth receives. In this Astronomy article from 2013, Kuhn and Berdyugina, along with Colossus backers David Halliday and Caisey Harlingten, point out that in Roman times, the figure for Ω was about 1/1000th of what it is today. Again, Ω stands for the ratio of power production by a civilization to the amount of solar power it receives.

    The authors see global planetary warming as setting a limit on the power a civilization can consume, because both sunlight from the parent star as well as a civilization’s own power production determine the global temperature. To produce maximum energy, a civilization would surely want to absorb the power of all the sunlight available, increasing Ω toward 1. Now we have a culture that is producing more and more waste heat radiation on its own world. And we could use an instrument like Colossus to locate civilizations that are on this course.

    In fact, we can do better than that, because within the 60 light year parameters being discussed, we can study the heat from such civilizations as the home planet rotates in and out of view of the Earth. Kuhn and Berdyugina liken the method to studying changes of brightness on a star. In this case, we are looking at time-varying brightness signals that can identify sources of heat on the planet, perhaps clustered into the extraterrestrial analog of cities. A large enough infrared telescope could observe civilizations that use as little as 1 percent of the total solar power they intercept by combining visible and infrared observations. A low value of Ω indeed.

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    Image: Figure 3 from the Kuhn/Berdyugina paper “Global Warming as a Detectable Thermodynamic Marker of Earth-like Extrasolar Civilizations: The case for a Telescope like Colossus.” Caption: Fig. 3. Expanded view of a representative North American region illustrating temperature perturbation due to cities (left, heated cities are seen in red) and corresponding surface albedo (right). From NEO/NASA.

    You can see what a challenge this kind of observation presents. It demands, if the telescope is on the ground, adaptive optics that can cancel out atmospheric distortion. It also demands coronagraph technology that can distinguish the glow of a working civilization from a star that could be many millions of times brighter. And because we are after the highest possible resolution, we need the largest possible collecting area. The contrast sensitivity at visible and infrared wavelengths of the instrument are likewise crucial factors.

    I’ll refer you to “New strategies for an extremely large telescope dedicated to extremely high contrast: The Colossus Project” (citation below) for the ways in which the Colossus team hopes to address all these issues. But I want to back out to the larger view: As a civilization, we are now capable of building technologies that can identify extraterrestrial cultures at work, and indeed, instruments like Colossus could be working for us within a decade if we fund them.

    We can add such capabilities to the detection of non-technological life as well, through the search for biomarkers that such large instruments can enable. More on that tomorrow, when I’ll wrap up this set on Colossus with a look at photosynthesis signatures on exoplanets. Because for all we know, life itself may be common to habitable zone planets, while technological civilization could be a rarity in the galaxy. Learning about our place in the universe is all about finding the answers to questions like these, answers now beginning to come into range.

    The Colossus description paper is Kuhn et al., “Looking Beyond 30m-class Telescopes: The Colossus Project,” SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation (2014). The paper on Colossus and waste heat is Kuhn & Berdyugina, “Global warming as a detectable thermodynamic marker of Earth-like extrasolar civilizations: the case for a telescope like Colossus,” International Journal of Astrobiology 14 (3): 401-410 (2015).

    See the full article here .

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    Stem Education Coalition

    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 3:13 pm on March 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Carl Sagan Center at the SETI Institute, , NIROSETI at Lick, SETI Institute,   

    From SETI Institute: “2016: A Year of Discovery at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute” And, Much Much More 

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    SETI Institute

    Undated
    No writer credit

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    2017 is well underway, building from all that was learned in 2016. The work of the Carl Sagan Center at the SETI Institute is detailed in 2016: Publications and Presentations of the SETI Institute, which can be downloaded here.

    Every day the scientific research that goes on at the SETI Institute tries to answer fundamental questions: How many planets exist that might support life? What is required for life to exist? How does life start? How does it evolve? In short, where did we come from and are we alone?

    Our team focuses on disciplines including space and planetary exploration, analogs, and observing and modeling the precursors of life in the depths of outer space. Each Carl Sagan Center research project is related to understanding the origins of life or the extent to which life may be present beyond Earth. Publications during 2016 were extensive and included Nature and Science as well as the Astronomical Journal, Astrobiology, Applied Physics, Journal of Chemical Physics, Icarus, Proceedings of the Royal Society, Aeolian Research and more.

    Sharing learning with the wider world is part of the mission of the SETI Institute. SETI Institute researchers speak at dozens of engagements each year, as well as write stories and be interviewed in the popular media. The breadth and depth of the science, combined with the impact and reach of our education programs help tell the whole story.

    2017 is shaping up to be just as exciting. Join us on our journey of exploration and discovery. Sign up for our e-news for the latest updates and information.

    See the full article here .

    OTHER WAYS TO HELP IN THE SEARCH FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE

    SETI@home
    SETI@home

    The science of SETI@home
    SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is a scientific area whose goal is to detect intelligent life outside Earth. One approach, known as radio SETI, uses radio telescopes to listen for narrow-bandwidth radio signals from space. Such signals are not known to occur naturally, so a detection would provide evidence of extraterrestrial technology.

    Radio telescope signals consist primarily of noise (from celestial sources and the receiver’s electronics) and man-made signals such as TV stations, radar, and satellites. Modern radio SETI projects analyze the data digitally. More computing power enables searches to cover greater frequency ranges with more sensitivity. Radio SETI, therefore, has an insatiable appetite for computing power.

    Previous radio SETI projects have used special-purpose supercomputers, located at the telescope, to do the bulk of the data analysis. In 1995, David Gedye proposed doing radio SETI using a virtual supercomputer composed of large numbers of Internet-connected computers, and he organized the SETI@home project to explore this idea. SETI@home was originally launched in May 1999.

    SETI@home is not a part of the SETI Institute

    The SETi@home screensaver image
    SETI@home screensaver

    To participate in this project, download and install the BOINC software on which it runs. Then attach to the project. While you are at BOINC, look at some of the other projects which you might find of interest.

    Breakthrough Listen Project

    About
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    Are We Alone?
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    About
    We are here.
    Circling one star among hundreds of billions, in one galaxy among a hundred billion more, in a Universe that is vast and expanding ever faster – perhaps toward infinity. In the granular details of daily life, it’s easy to forget that we live in a place of astonishing grandeur and mystery.
    The Breakthrough Initiatives are a program of scientific and technological exploration, probing the big questions of life in the Universe: Are we alone? Are there habitable worlds in our galactic neighborhood? Can we make the great leap to the stars? And can we think and act together – as one world in the cosmos?

    Where is everybody?
    So wondered the great physicist Enrico Fermi. The Universe is ancient and immense. Life, he reasoned, has had plenty of time to get started – and get smart. But we see no evidence of anything alive or intelligent in space. In the last five years, we have discovered that planets in the habitable zone of stars are common. Based on the numbers discovered so far, there are estimated to be billions more in our galaxy alone. Yet we are still in the dark about life. Are we really alone? Or are there others out there?
    It’s one of the biggest questions. And only science can answer it.
    Breakthrough Listen is a $100 million program of astronomical observations in search of evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth. It is by far the most comprehensive, intensive and sensitive search ever undertaken for artificial radio and optical signals. A complete survey of the 1,000,000 nearest stars, the plane and center of our galaxy, and the 100 nearest galaxies. All data will be open to the public.
    Breakthrough Message is a $1 million competition to design a message representing Earth, life and humanity that could potentially be understood by another civilization. The aim is to encourage humanity to think together as one world, and to spark public debate about the ethics of sending messages beyond Earth.

    Can we reach the stars?
    Life in the Universe does not only mean extraterrestrials. It also means us. No other beings have yet visited us – but neither have we stepped out to the galactic stage. Are we destined to belong to Earth forever? Or can we reach the stars?
    If we can, the natural first step is our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri – four light years away.
    Breakthrough Starshot is a $100 million research and engineering program aiming to demonstrate proof of concept for a new technology, enabling ultra-light unmanned space flight at 20% of the speed of light; and to lay the foundations for a flyby mission to Alpha Centauri within a generation.

    The Breakthrough Initiatives were founded in 2015 by Yuri and Julia Milner to explore the Universe, seek scientific evidence of life beyond Earth, and encourage public debate from a planetary perspective.

    Breakthrough Listen is currently operating on three telescopes

    Green Bank Radio Telescope


    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA

    Green Bank is currently funded by the National Science Foundation. But those funds are now threatened for the future. Please visit GBO, and see how you can help.

    Parkes Radio Telescope


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


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

    Lick has faced a funding crises created by the University of California. Please visit Friends of Lick to see how you can help.

    Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
    New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
    March 23, 2015
    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)

    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.

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