Is anyone there? UK scientists launch hunt for alien intelligence.
Eleven UK institutions plan to launch a collaborative effort to comb the universe for messages from intelligent alien life.
Scientists from 11 British institutions are partnering in a project to comb the universe for signs of alien intelligence, the latest in a mushrooming effort to continue the ET hunt, even as government funding for those projects dwindles.Skip to next paragraph
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The team, called the UK Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Research Network, held its first formal session on Friday at the annual National Astronomy Meeting, at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. It is asking for $1.5 million a year from donors to operate a network of seven telescopes called eMerlin that will be used to analyze radio waves received from outer space, in hopes of deciphering a message from the stars, the BBC said.
“There is a small but active group of SETI researchers in the UK, who need a forum to discuss their work,” wrote the scientists in their abstract for the conference. “We also hope that by exposing the whole range of UK SETI activities to the community, it will promote a wider understanding of, and activity in, this subject, and the justifications for the allocation of a small fraction of the UK astronomy budget.”
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The eMerlin telescopes are presently used to collect data from cosmic objects like pulsar stars. The new funding would be put toward sifting through that information for extraterrestrial intelligence, as well as toward allowing scientists to pivot the telescopes towards targeted, potentially lucrative regions where planets are thought to orbit stars in the habitable zone – the sweet spot where the planet is neither too far from the sun, freezing its water, nor too close to the sun, boiling its water.
"We now have the capability to collect radiowaves across a wide swathe of the radiowave spectrum, and that allows us to look at the possibility of searching for the sorts of signals that might be created by ET civilisations," said Tim O'Brien, deputy director of Jodrell Bank, at the meeting, The Guardian reported.
The British plans for the program would rank the UK second after the US in the amount of resources put toward looking for alien intelligence out in the stars.