Eavesdropping on interstellar communications with the Green Bank Telescope

Photo of the Green Bank Telescope at night by Dave Green.

Communications across the vastness of interstellar space could be enhanced by taking advantage of a star’s ability to focus and magnify communication signals. A team of graduate students at Penn State is looking for just these sorts of communication signals that might be taking advantage of our own sun if transmissions were passing through our solar system.

Investigating these particular wavelengths allowed the researchers to maximize the amount of data they could collect across the sky in a short window of time. The student researchers collected the data over one night when they visited the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. Their data collection and analysis were conducted in collaboration with Breakthrough Listen, a program dedicated to finding evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth.

A paper describing the technique — explored as part of Penn State’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) — has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal and is available on the preprint server arXiv.

Read the complete press release here from Penn State University.