Hunt for alien 'technosignatures' has been expanded by a factor of 1,000
By T.K. Randall
December 6, 2022 · 1 comment
One of the MeerKAT telescope's dishes. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 Morganoshell
The Breakthrough Listen project has joined forces with the MeerKAT Telescope in South Africa to help it expand its search.
Launched back in 2016 with the help of the late physicist Professor Stephen Hawking and Israeli entrepreneur Yuri Milner, Breakthrough Listen aims to scour the night sky for alien 'technosignatures' - indications of advanced extraterrestrial technology in orbit around distant stars.
The project employs the services of the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia as well as the Parkes Telescope in Australia and now it is also joining forces with the MeerKAT Telescope in South Africa - an array of 64 individual dishes that could help to take the search to the next level.
Efforts to integrate the necessary equipment with MeerKAT's systems had taken the better part of three years, but now at last the first data collected by the telescope is being analyzed for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations.
"MeerKAT consists of 64 dishes, which can see an area of the sky 50 times bigger than the GBT can view at once," said Breakthrough Listen's Dr. Andrew Siemion.
"Such a large field of view typically contains many stars that are interesting technosignature targets."
"Our new supercomputer enables us to combine signals from the 64 dishes to get high resolution scans of these targets with excellent sensitivity, all without impacting the research of other astronomers who are using the array."
All things taken into account, this new development could increase the number of targets that can be searched by the project by a factor of 1,000.
"One of the first targets we'll be observing is our nearest neighbor star, Proxima Centauri, which appears to host two small rocky planets in the star's habitable zone," said executive director Dr. S. Pete Worden.
"Routine observations with the Listen backend on MeerKAT are now underway, and the team looks forward to sharing the first science results in the coming months."
Source: Live Science
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