5/26/2016: SETI Gets an Upgrade

Siemion_Air_and_Space_2016Dan Werthimer doesn’t mean to be rude, but he’s getting ready to eavesdrop on the neighbors.

For decades, astronomers have been listening for messages sent to us—a “Hello, is anyone out there?” signal from intelligent aliens. But now Werthimer is about to get nosier; his team at the University of California at Berkeley is conducting the first search for communities on other worlds that are speaking to one another—between planets and even across star systems. And to do it, he has two of the world’s largest radio telescopes and support from a planet‑hunting optical telescope.

Thanks to a new initiative announced last July, Werthimer’s team will begin searching for extraterrestrial civilizations, using instruments with greater sensitivity and scanning across a wider range of frequencies than any SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) project to date. Called Breakthrough Listen, it began earlier this year and will continue for a decade at a price tag of $100 million. “It’s a lot of money, a lot of telescope time,” says Werthimer. “We’ll be able to look at a hundred billion radio channels simultaneously. A big problem in SETI is we don’t know on what frequency ET might be transmitting, so the more channels you can listen to, the better chance you have of finding” a communication. Published by Air & Space.  Read more: http://www.airspacemag.com/space/new-seti-search-180959126/#G7SLUp3kU2JLvsc2.99

5/18/2016: Radio observatory on every campus is RRI’s dream

Bengaluru-based Raman Research Institute (RRI) is aiming at making radio astronomy so easily accessible and exciting to undergraduate science students “that they should be able to reach an observatory even in their pyjamas after dinner”. To achieve that, the institute is working on a project – a first in India – to see academic institutions open up radio astronomy observatories on their respective campuses to fire up the passion among students who can conduct creative research in this field. As of now, three Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), two Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs), the Thiruvananthapuram-based Indian Institute of Space Technology (IIST) as well as BITS Pilani in Rajasthan, have evinced interest in joining the RRI project, named Sky Watch Array Network (SWAN). Published by The Bangalore Mirror.  See more at: http://www.bangaloremirror.com/bangalore/others/Radio-observatory-on-every-campus-is-RRIs-dream/articleshow/52316488.cms

4/12/16: Breakthrough Listen Initiative Publicly Sharing Data from Unprecedented Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe

Breakthrough ListenThe $100 million initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe – is releasing initial observational datasets to the world, Breakthrough Initiatives announced today. January 2016 saw ‘first light’ for Breakthrough Listen, with observations marking the start of the 10-year effort announced in July 2015 at London’s Royal Society by Yuri Milner, Stephen Hawking, Lord Martin Rees, Ann Druyan, and Frank Drake. Hundreds of hours of observations have taken place using the Green Bank Radio Telescope in West Virginia and Lick Observatory’s Automated Planet Finder in Mt. Hamilton, California. Today Breakthrough Listen is releasing the first batch of data for public access at the Breakthrough Initiatives website. Data from the Green Bank Telescope is also available to users of UC Berkeley’s SETI@home software. Observations made so far by Breakthrough Listen include most of the stars within 16 light years of Earth (including stars such as 51 Pegasi that are known to host extra-solar planets), and a sample of stars between 16 and 160 light years away. This included nearby sun-like and giant stars as well as numerous binary stars. The search also targeted around 40 of the nearest spiral galaxies, including members of the Maffei Group in the direction of the constellation Cassiopeia. Stars within 16 light years accessible only from the Southern Hemisphere, such as Alpha Centauri, will be observed by the end of the year with the Parkes Telescope. Published by: Breakthrough Initiatives.  See more at: http://www.breakthroughinitiatives.org/News/3

4/12/16: Green Bank Telescope begins 10-year search for extraterrestrial intelligence

milner_2016Since January, scientists taking part in a $100 million, 10-year search for extraterrestrial intelligence have used Pocahontas County’s Green Bank Telescope to search the 200 stars nearest Earth for radio signals bearing clues of the possible presence of other civilizations. The search, called Project Breakthrough Listen, was announced last July by Russian billionaire and space philanthropist Yuri Milner and renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking. The announcement that Breakthrough Listen observations are underway came during a news conference in New York on Tuesday, during which Milner and Hawking announced the launch of Breakthrough Starshot, another $100 million space research initiative funded by Milner’s Breakthrough Foundation. The new initiative provides funding to design, engineer and demonstrate the feasibility of developing a fleet of miniature, robotic, light-powered “nanocraft” to explore beyond our solar system and check for signs of life in the neighboring Alpha Centauri star system, 4.37 light years distant. Published in The Charleston Gazette.  See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/20160412/green-bank-telescope-begins-10-year-search-for-extraterrestrial-intelligence#sthash.0A6gPyrX.dpuf

4/14/16: Daily Mail editorial: Green Bank assists in search for other life

GBT4_RGB2002_hiOver the next decade, the Green Bank Observatory in Pocahontas County will see a $20 million investment as part of a search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The 10-year, $100 million project called Project Breakthrough Listen was announced last year, the Gazette-Mail’s Rick Steelhammer reported. Scientists have been using the Green Bank Telescope since January to search the 200 stars nearest Earth for radio signals bearing clues to the possible presence of other civilizations. The project is funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, and famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking is also involved. Researchers will use other telescopes and instruments across the globe. According to Steelhammer’s article: “Project Breakthrough Listen will make use of about 20 percent of the Green Bank Telescope’s observation time during the next 10 years, bringing a total of $20 million to the Green Bank Observatory. In addition to the 100-meter Green Bank Telescope — the world’s largest fully steerable telescope, Breakthrough Listen also makes use of the Parkes Radio Telescope, in Australia, and the Automated Planet Finder, at the Lick Observatory near San Jose.” Published in The Charleston Gazette. – See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/daily-mail-opinion/20160414/daily-mail-editorial-green-bank-assists-in-search-for-other-life#sthash.oqZbz6Gv.dpuf