So, using data from the Kepler space telescope, astronomers are becoming more focused on "listening" for radio signals coming from stars known (or at least thought) to have planets orbiting them. And it seems the first "candidate" signals have been detected!
But before you start popping the "we've discovered ET!" champagne corks, this first signal is most likely terrestrial in origin.
"We've started searching our Kepler SETI observations and our analyses have generated some of our first candidate signals," scientists of the University of California, Berkeley announced on Friday.
Sadly, the first candidate signals aren't lucky detections of alien radio transmissions, they're "undoubtedly examples of terrestrial radio frequency interference (RFI)."
Although it's interference from a source here on Earth, the detection of any artificial signal provides the UC Berkeley team with a great opportunity to understand the kind of artificial (alien) signals they hope to eventually discover.
From the UC Berkeley website:
"These signals look similar to what we think might be produced from an extraterrestrial technology. They are narrow in frequency, much narrower than would be produced by any known astrophysical phenomena, and they drift in frequency with time, as we would expect because of the Doppler effect imposed by the relative motion of the transmitter and the receiving radio telescope."
NASA's Kepler space telescope is currently looking for exoplanets orbiting other stars. It does so by constantly looking at the same patch of sky, waiting for these alien worlds to pass in front of their parent stars. When an exoplanet does that -- an event known as a "transit" -- the starlight dims slightly, and Kepler registers a "candidate" exoplanet.
For the world to be confirmed, it needs to complete four transits. As one of Kepler's prime mission objectives is to discover Earth-sized exoplanets orbiting within the habitable zone of sun-like stars, we have to wait 3.5 years until Kepler can confirm their existence.
As explained in the Discovery News article "Big Question for 2012: Will We Find Earth 2.0?," we may start to glimpse hints of the first true "Earth-like" worlds orbiting other stars by the end of 2012.
So the logic is that if SETI directs their radio telescopes at star systems known to contain exoplanets -- preferably exoplanets with similar qualities to Earth -- then perhaps life evolved in a similar way as it did on Earth. If this extraterrestrial life is going through the "radio transmitting" phase as we are currently, then perhaps we might detect them on one of these exoplanets.
Although the likelihood of discovering ET is still very low, at least Kepler is giving the search for intelligent aliens a better chance. - discovery
SETI 2020: A Roadmap for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Hawking warns against contacting aliens...again
Famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking will celebrate his 70th birthday on Sunday, January 8. And to mark his birthday, he recently answered questions from listeners of BBC Radio channel 4′s Today show. According to the BBC, “Topics ranged from the origins of the universe to the prospects for extra terrestrial life and the impact on Einstein’s theory of relativity should neutrinos be confirmed to travel faster than light.”
The question that elicited the response about extraterrestrials was submitted by a Twitter user named @CazCarpSnail. The question asked, “What do you think the impact will be on humankind if Kepler 22-b [Earth-like planet found by Nasa's Kepler Space Telescope] does indeed support life?” Hawking responded:
The discovery of intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe would be the biggest scientific discovery ever. But it would be very risky to attempt to communicate with an alien civilization. If aliens decided to visit us then the outcome might be similar to when Europeans arrived in the Americas. That did not turn out well for the Native Americans.
Hawking made similar comments in a 2010 Discovery channel special titled “Into The Universe With Stephen Hawking.” In the special, he cautioned against attempting contact with extraterrestrials, suggesting that they would likely be hostile. But despite his grim warnings, in April 2011, Hawking participated in a ceremony where a winner was named in a writing contest called “Dear Aliens,” which asked students to answer the following questions: What would you say to extraterrestrials if earthlings are contacted from outer space? If you had to speak for humanity, what would you say? The contest was launched by Hawking’s daughter Lucy Hawking, and the winning answer was beamed into space during the ceremony.
On Today, Hawking also commented on space colonization, stating his opinion that humans need to colonize Mars and other bodies in the solar system to prevent extinction. Just yesterday, former Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin wrote about the same topic on the Huffington Post website. He stated, “[T]o make a real difference — from an exploration, science, national security and international leadership perspective — our Nation needs to commit to seeking a permanent presence on Mars.”
When the first Mars colonies arrive on the red planet, they better hope that Martian theoretical physicists haven’t been offering similar cynical views about extraterrestrials...-openminds.tv
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