Astronomers track millions of stars for aliens

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In search of evidence of alien technology, astronomers at Australia’s International Radio Astronomy Research Center did a huge scan of the sky, examining more than 10 million stars, but found no evidence. The result of the study was released last Monday (07), in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia.

Using the 4,096 antennas of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope, the researchers searched around the constellation of Vela, trying to find radio signals emitted by some extraterrestrial civilization.

But after 17 hours examining the region, chosen for having the ideal conditions for the formation of new stars, according to the astrophysicist of the Australian Science and Industry Advisory Council (CSIRO) Chenoa Tremblay, no unknown signal was detected.

The study co-author explained what kind of signs were searched for: “Think of a car alarm when you leave the lights on, where there are a series of equally spaced ‘ping’ sounds.” The scan captured more than 10.3 million stellar sources and six known exoplanets, looking for these “repeated pings” that could escape the noise of a planet or have been created for that purpose.

Factors that hinder the search

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) comes up against some difficulties, such as the limited size of the analyzed area. In the case of this Australian study, the researchers said it was like trying to find something in the ocean, looking only at a “volume of water equivalent to a large pool in the backyard”.

Tremblay also points out that current research assumes that other civilizations have technology similar to ours. However, they may have developed other communication skills, without using radio signals, for example.

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To try to reduce these difficulties, she cites the importance of working together with other scientific investigations. “Where we go next will depend on other sciences,” he commented.


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