The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence – SETI – has received a few boosts recently. The new Low Frequency Array – LOFAR – has enabled an extra eye on the sky for the institute. Additionally, the institute has released shedloads of data for people to analyse through SetiQuest. But avid readers of the blog know all this, so what am I padding out an entry for?
Well, Astronomy Now have been doing a few articles on SETI to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary and have tied it in to the fiftieth year of the Laser. Yes that thing you use to point with and play CDs has now done a half century. SETI also has a branch looking for optical signals – OSETI – based on the fact that we now have lasers that can outshine the Sun at a given wavelength for a fraction of a second with sufficient targeting skills to point the signal at close by stars. This enables us, with today’s technology, to produce a signal that, with today’s detection technology, could be picked up by relatively local stars (such a signal might’ve been seen in 2007, but as with the Wow! signal of ordinary SETI, no repeat has been seen). Further details can be seen in the article itself.
But what might aliens look like? Stephen Hawking has been thinking about it, and here’s a few snapshots of what a cosmologist thinks is the answer to an astrobiology question.