UD professor to co-lead SETI project seeking a new class of signals - Technical.ly Delaware

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Jul. 23, 2019 12:13 pm

UD professor to co-lead SETI project seeking a new class of signals

The team is seeking optical extraterrestrial signals.
VERITAS telescopes at The Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Arizona.

VERITAS telescopes at The Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Arizona.

( Courtesy photo)

There’s been a lot of buzz about Area 51 lately, as millions of people have signed up to “storm” the U.S. Military base as a result of an internet joke that exploded into the online stratosphere this month.

If you’re serious about connecting with extraterrestrial life and maybe don’t feel like risking your life by trespassing on a military base, there’s SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), which has quietly been innovating its sky-scanning technologies over the past few years.

“It’s a numbers game,” said Seth Shostak, director of research at the SETI Institute, during a talk at Zip Code Wilmington in May. “There are 2 trillion galaxies in the known universe. Not stars — galaxies.”

Jamie Holder, professor in University of Delaware’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, and David Williams, professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will co-lead a SETI project with Breakthrough Listen at the University of California, Berkeley’s SETI Research Center, UDaily reports.

The project will include researchers associated with the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS), one of the world’s most sensitive high-energy gamma ray observatories.

“Breakthrough Listen is already the most powerful, comprehensive and intensive search yet undertaken for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth,” said Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center, in an interview with UDaily. “Now, with the addition of VERITAS, we’re sensitive to an important new class of signals: fast optical pulses. Optical communication has already been used by NASA to transmit high definition images to Earth from the Moon, so there’s reason to believe that an advanced civilization might use a scaled-up version of this technology for interstellar communication.”

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For years, SETI researchers searched exclusively for radio signals. In other words, we’ve spent a lot of time listening to the stars for ET communications. Now researchers are looking for visual signals — pulses of laser light that, in theory, may be used by advanced civilizations in other galaxies to communicate.

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